A word about fairy tales. Shadowgirl isn’t a fairy tale. This book is about fairies, but as a folklorist, Kate Ristau recognizes that while pixies in Fantasia dance to classical music and make moon-filled dewdrops, this image of the fair folk is a more modern interpretation. In earlier stories, fairies could make fire and move the earth and the trees. Fairies in this book, in other words, are powerful and frightening.
|Kate Ristau and her novel Shadowgirl|
Ristau gets so much right with Shadowgirl. It’s a tale about a girl trying to solve the mystery of her mother’s murder, but it’s also a tale about a brewing war in the fairylands. The main character has the typical YA search for her identity, but the discovery and the journey are so extraordinary that neither is typical. Even the love triangle, such a stable trope in the literary world, gets an expert twirl so it lands on its head.
Ristau takes our mundane world—the book is set in modern Ireland—and makes it a place of darkness and mystery to Ainé, the protagonist who has lived her whole life in the land of the fairies and has never seen a shadow. She has dreams of her mother’s murder in the Shadowlands—that’s what fairies call our world—so she crosses in secret to find out once and for all what happened when she was taken as a child to live with the fairies.
Also, I’m pleased to say that Ristau’s plot swerved in directions that surprised me. I didn’t foresee the plot twists, I didn’t guess the ending, and I was lead merrily astray until the end. It was awesome. The last time that happened to me with a YA book was the first Harry Potter.
The only criticism I have is that I didn’t know that Shadowgirl is the beginning of a series. The book ends with a crossing back to Fairyland, but so much is unresolved. All of the promises of the book are answered, but there is much left for the next book. Naturally, the next book is not out yet, so readers will have the same sweet agony I have now: waiting for book two while savoring the memories of book one.
Find Kate Ristau's Amazon page here.