This book, released in April of this year, so eligible for The Cybils this year - was a good snag - and reminded me, happily, of some of my faves. Not in a derivative, "readalike" fashion - but in ways that struck chords. This novel is about politics, power, and ...pawns. I thought LIGHT & SHADOW would find a home with fans of Maria B. Snyder's POISON STUDY trilogy, the THRONE OF GLASS series by Sarah J. Maas, THE FALSE PRINCE series by Jennifer Nielsen, THE GIRL OF FIRE AND THORNS series by Rae Carson, to a lesser degree Robin La Fevers' HIS FAIR ASSASSIN series, Kristin Cashore's SEVEN KINGDOMS trilogy, as well as Leigh Bardugo's SHADOW AND BONE series, and to a greater degree, the inimitable and classic ATTOLIA series, by Megan Whalen Turner. Do you love the deep-game political stories told by CJ Cherryh? This is the YA version. For serious.
That's some fairly exalted company for an indie published by Amazon - but it fits. Tightly written, with ambivalently sympathetic characters, some worrying intrigue, disturbing betrayals, unnerving alliances, and genuinely unexpected twists -- this has all the earmarks of those great political kingdom books. Paired with a memorable personal journey of the main character from a simple - yet prophetic - past, and a future so full of potential for -- anything -- that the reader is on the edge of their seat, just wanting to know What Happens Next, this series deserves its place in the pantheon of YA fantasy political thrillers. I am excited to know that the trilogy is finished and available in paperback via Amazon, by way of CreateSpace, or as an ebook via Smashwords, B&N and the usual suspects.
According to her website, the author, Moira Katson, cannot provide anyone with a herd of war elephants, and tenders her apologies.
So, on with the buzz:
Concerning Character: Catwin knows what she is - nothing - and who she is - a nobody. The orphaned daughter of a poor prostitute, she blends in to the Winter Palace that is her home - nearly merging with the dusty bricks and the packed rushes underfoot. She sneaks around, shadowing the palace inhabitants, simply because... she can. After all, there's no better way to gain a few extra bites of food or a little treasure to hold, than to sneak about and get it. Sneaking also helps Catwin to stay out of trouble, and find out what's going on. But, when her sneaking brings her to the attention of the Duke of Voltur's Shadow, Temar... she's not even begun to guess what trouble is.
The Duke of Voltur, once a common soldier, was exalted into the nobility of the Kingdom of Heddred for his actions in wartime. He has, for many years, had his eye on greater things - much greater things. It's not enough to have the ducal seal of approval. No - he wants more. With a sickly young King, whom everyone expected to die, he was the power behind the throne - but his position is now in danger of being eclipsed by the other more powerful and born-to-nobility Dukes and Lords - and suddenly, the King himself is getting well.
The Lady of Voltur, the Duke's sister, married advantageously, and had been in the perfect position to assist the Duke, only she, like a useless woman, acted the whore at court - putting herself forward, becoming a laughingstock, and the Duke lost control of her. During her resultant pregnancy, the Duke had his sister exiled to the Winter Palace, fearing her child did not belong to her noble husband. Fortunately, Miriel is her noble father's very image... and now, the Duke has plans for his fourteen-year-old niece, oh, does he has plans. Miriel will be faultless. Miriel will be poised. Miriel will be perfect - for if she is not, the Duke will throw her away, and find another way to rise.
And he will rise. No other man is so determined. Just ask Miriel's mother, exiled in a freezing, empty castle: he's thrown away people who disappointed him before. And the stakes are higher this time...
Catwin knows what Temar does for the Duke - a Shadow is a pair of unseen eyes, ears and hands. Temar takes care of the "details," and protects the Duke with his life. But, nobody ever asked Catwin if that's what she wanted to do with hers. Now the Duke of Voltur has decided on a Shadow for his hateful, wretched, spiteful and spoiled little niece... and Catwin's it. But, how is she supposed to be the unseen eyes, ears and hands of someone she passionately hates - and who just as passionately hates her? As factions fight, and plots smokescreen the truth, and with the lives of both girls in the hands of a brutally capricious Duke, who can Catwin trust to help her survive - the King? Temar? Miriel?
WARNING: This book will make you long for Attolia. It is full of plots and betrayals, mean girls and scary old dudes. This book is another in the pantheon of Assassin Girls books, but somehow, killing people is portrayed as Not That Easy, which is a welcome change. Plotwise, what you think you know might not be true - and what you know is true might not be good enough. Do not read while operating heavy machinery, or before clearing your afternoon schedule. Produces instant longing for the next book, which, fortunately, is available, with the first book free this week on Amazon for Kindle. Settle in with a fleece throw and a cuppa, and you can whip through all three in one perfectly rainy autumn weekend. Though this book contains no magic, it's still high fantasy - kingdoms and castles and all. Remember, the only true pawns are those who don't know their place in the game.
You can find LIGHT AND SHADOW by Moira Katson online, or at an independent bookstore near you!