Circle of Shadows – Evelyn Skye – Circle of Shadows #1 – Balzer+Bray – Published 22 January 2019
Sora can move as silently as a ghost and hurl throwing stars with lethal accuracy. Her gemina, Daemon, can win any physical fight blindfolded and with an arm tied behind his back. They are apprentice warriors of the Society of Taigas—marked by the gods to be trained in magic and the fighting arts to protect the kingdom of Kichona.
As their graduation approaches, Sora and Daemon look forward to proving themselves worthy of belonging to the elite group—but in a kingdom free of violence since the Blood Rift Rebellion many years ago, it’s been difficult to make their mark. So when Sora and Daemon encounter a strange camp of mysterious soldiers while on a standard scouting mission, they decide the only thing to do to help their kingdom is to infiltrate the group.Taking this risk will change Sora’s life forever—and lead her on a mission of deception that may fool everyone she’s ever loved.
Circle of Shadows is the first book in a new fantasy series by Evelyn Skye. Despite the intriguing synopsis, I did not enjoy Circle of Shadows as I anticipated I would. While the latter half of the book is more engaging with a quickly moving plot, the first half of the book is slow, with little action to grab my attention. A juvenile writing style more befitting a different kind of story, characters with quickly changing motives and a lack of explanation for the magic in this book meant I never became invested in the characters nor their quest.
Sora and Daemon are gemina, a bonded pair training as apprentices in the Society of Taigas. But when the safety of their kingdom of Kichona and the Empress Aki is threatened by an old enemy, Sora, Daemon and their friends must risk everything to first prove to their leaders that the threat exists and then fight to protect the lives of all who live in Kichona and beyond.
Unfortunately, there are so many little details in Circle of Shadows that could have been brilliant but instead were missing or left unfulfilled to their full potential. The setting, the Taigas’ magic and the gemina bonds were all intriguing but the setting never becomes anything more than a simple backdrop, the magic is never explored or explained, and the details about the gemina bond, how it is formed, how the bond pair is chosen or how it is so easy for Daemon to hide his feelings for Sora but not everything else is never explored or explained. And how exactly does the Taiga magic work? It seems like they just repeat a simple phrase and voila, magic! The lack of explanation also makes everything seem a little bit too convenient. Need to climb something? Easy. Want to control the minds of thousands of people? Sure. Easy peasy. But there is no mention of how this is done, sustained or the cost. And that makes it very unbelievable.
Sadly, the characters in Circle of Shadows never gripped me. Daemon and his story of being raised by wolves, his conflict over feelings for Sora and his struggle with mastering magic was the only character I really cared about. Sora on the other hand moves immediately from uncaring about her purpose in life to determined to be the best she can simply with one conversation from her mother. It was hard to believe someone who had witnessed the brutal destruction she describes and the guilt she later draws upon to fuel her anger for revenge would previously be so uncaring about her future and training. Sadly, she is not the only character with a very quick change in characteristics, with the romance thread taking a wild turn right at the end that didn’t make sense. Speaking of the ending, it’s not a happy one and while there is clearly going to be a sequel, I am not at all invested in reading any further.
Overall, while there was much possibility for this story to be hugely intriguing, and some characters did hold promise to be unique and captivating, it will be easy to pass over Circle of Shadows when recommending a good fantasy YA novel to readers as there are so many other excellent examples in this genre.
The publishers provided an advanced readers copy of this book for reviewing purposes. All opinions are my own.
Category: Young adult fiction.
Themes: Magic, fighting, bonds, friendship, romance, sisters, guilt, family.
Reading age guide: Ages 13 and up.
Advisory: References to casual sexual relationships, rape and attempted sexual assault. Descriptions of violence, death and violent, self-inflicted death including of children. Occasional coarse language, sh** (3).
Published: 22 January 2019 by Balzer+Bray
Format: Hardcover, paperback, ebook. 464 pages.