Hello Humans! Today I’m reviewing a book that the very kind people at Harper360YA sent me in the post a while back. The Beckoning Shadow was one of those books where I went in with little to no expectations – I wasn’t too sure what to expect other than the fact that the main character had some power to do with fear. Perhaps as a result, I was pleasantly surprised by this book – it did a lot with well-loved YA tropes while at the same time having a bit of a twist so it didn’t feel stale.
Vesper Montgomery can summon your worst fear and turn it into a reality—but she’s learned the hard way that it’s an addicting and dangerous power. One wrong move and you could hurt someone you love.
But when she earns a spot in the Tournament of the Unraveling, where competitors battle it out for a chance to rewrite the past, Vesper finally has a shot to reverse the mistakes that have changed her forever. She turns to Sam Hardy, a former MMA fighter who’s also carrying a tragedy he desperately wants to undo. However, helping heal Sam’s heart will mean breaking her own, and the competition forces her to master her powers—powers she has been terrified of since they destroyed her life.
One thing I think this book did well was the worldbuilding. In this case, it was just at that right point between giving too much information that then isn’t important to the book at all versus giving no reason for anything. When you’re dealing with any setting wherein some characters have powers and others don’t that’s kind of my ideal – unless you need a lot of information that is then going to have a big impact on the plot (to name one such example I am currently reading Jade City which requires that information to make sense of a plot point). So yes, while you could argue the worldbuilding is a little light, I actually thought that it fit in well with the world the characters were inhabiting.
Vesper was a character I wasn’t expecting to like, I thought I was going to get annoyed at the trope of ‘I have these powers but I don’t know how to use them’ and the somewhat dated idea of being taught that control by a handsome man – but actually it’s not so bad. Thinking about it now, it is still that trope-y, but it didn’t bother me when reading it. I think that’s in part because it’s made so clear why Vesper has a problem with her powers and what the history behind that is. In addition to that, it isn’t just the handsome boy who teaches her, it’s more of a team effort which feels more realistic and less bad romance-y. So yes, there is a strong sense that this is a narrative we’ve heard before, but it still manages to feel fresh and modern despite that.
I liked the powers, that’s one thing that I think I’ll always look for in books even when I’m old and grey. I’m still that girl who stares intently at the trees convinced that she is somehow controlling the wind. I liked the variety of powers this book had, and how they served the plot. It didn’t feel like they were just thrown in for variety, nor did it feel as though they were only there as a plot device. I loved the idea of scribes, who create binding deals between them and others, I also loved the idea of the unravelling, because who hasn’t wished at one time or another that they could change the past?
I will say, I know we’re not supposed to judge books by their covers, but I definitely feel like this one doesn’t do the story justice. I love the cover in itself but it calls to mind more of a contemporary feel rather than a sci-fi/fantasy story. Maybe that’s just me?
The writing is where I think this book just sings. The plot is good but not particularly unique, the characters likewise, but the dialogue is engaging, the prose is gorgeous, the pacing is good. I can see Katharyn Blair really flourishing as an author in the coming years.
My rating: 4/5 stars
I received a free copy of this book from the publisher. All opinions are my own.
The Beckoning Shadow is available August 8th
What say you? What kind of tropes do you love in YA fiction? Let me know in the comments below!