McKenzie Lewis has a gift. It allows her access to a world few have seen, and even fewer can comprehend. It’s her secret. And it exists in the shadows…
McKenzie was a normal college student, save for one little twist: she’s a shadow reader, someone who can both see the fae and track their movements between our world and the Realm. It’s a gift for which she has been called insane, one for which she has risked family and friends—and one that has now plunged her into a brutal civil war between the fae.
With the reign of the king and his vicious general at an end, McKenzie hoped to live a more normal life while exploring her new relationship with Aren, the rebel fae who has captured her heart. But when her best friend, Paige, disappears McKenzie knows her wish is, for now, just a dream. McKenzie is the only one who can rescue her friend, but if she’s not careful, her decisions could cost the lives of everyone she’s tried so hard to save.
*Blurb taken from Goodreads*
After defeating the King and his fae in the last book, McKenzie still can’t take a breather as the rebels are still dealing with daily attacks from the remnants (fae who are still loyal to the previous King or who are unhappy with the replacement) and Lena who has a direct claim to the throne. But that is not all. McKenzie finds out her best friend, Paige, has been abducted by the remnants who are using her to get back at McKenzie who is on the quest to rescue her. But someone close to the rebel alliance is a traitor, and the rebels may not be able to hold the fae kingdom together as the war still continues with the remnants refusing to accept Lena’s rule.
I really enjoyed the first book, The Shadow Reader which focuses on a young woman, McKenzie, who is able to see and track Fae who have the ability to appear into different locations on earth and in their own realms. I loved the premise – even though it featured the dreaded love triangle which is a staple for most UF these days. However, the events in the last book left me hanging for more because the love triangle looked like it was resolved with McKenzie choosing Aren. Aren’s rebels also took over the fae kingdom after defeating the autocratic King Altoth.
The Shattered Dark held so much promise but I was let down with this book. I found it hard writing this review because I really enjoyed the first book. So let’s start with the good before I broach with the bad and the ugly because, readers, there are aspects of bad and ugly. And sadly that affected my enjoyment of the book.
The book starts off after the events of the last book with McKenzie helping the rebels defend against the remnants who, ironically, seem to be gaining ground against Lena’s forces. There were also hints of a lost history between Shadow Readers/humans and the fae which held some tantalizing possibilities. There was also hope about a tragic death from the previous book. At this point I was beginning to fear that the book was going down-hill for me because it felt like a Deus Ex Machina linked with that possibility and I am not too sure how I feel about that because I do want it to happen because I hated what happened to that character.
Nonetheless, I enjoyed the main plot of the fae rebels trying to gain their stronghold over the remnants, and there were a few twists and turns, as well as a mystery, of who could be behind the betraying and undermining of Lena’s claim to the throne. But the book falters with the romance or should I say love triangle resurgence – and it was not good. It fell into the same pitfalls and traps that I was afraid would happen in the first book. Going back to the first book, I was pleasantly surprised because Sandy Williams bypassed that and actually resolved the love triangle with McKenzie making her choice of Aren. And it was the right one because despite starting off as enemies and disliking each other, Aren had never let her down and was steadfast in his commitment to her. McKenzie was in love with Kyol, but he never dared to rebel against the old King’s edict, and commit to McKenzie.
Returning to the The Shattered Dark, any developments between Aren and McKenzie were overshadowed by the love triangle resurgence. The tropes fell into pit-falls and traps which made reading this almost painful because it was chock full of forced obstacles. Williams threw so many emotional and physical obstacles along the way. I was more worried and caught up in the romantic sub-plot, and I think the main plot suffered because there were too many convenient coincidences, and flashbacks, that felt awkward and jammed in. For instance in the spoiler below is where I really felt disappointed when –
McKenzie was life-bonded at the end to Kyol, which was the kicker, because it was used to save her life. I viewed this as a way to drag on the romantic plot-line instead of developing the relationship which never really evolved.[/spoiler]
I also felt that I was emotionally manipulated because I was invested in the romance, and it turned out to be clumsy and hamfisted. I didn’t like the one instance where McKenzie finds out more about Aren’s past that hurts her. But then she gets a flashback of Kyol saving her, and that juxtaposition felt so heavy handed with the subtext on whether Aren was trustworthy. And I know that McKenzie, in this book, is very engaged with Aren – even though she has doubts. It felt like the romance was being strung along just to create forced tension. Nothing really happens in this aspect of the book other than a lot of angst. This pretty much overpowered the story for me and left me very disappointed because it was using tropes to create problems and obstacles instead of using natural conflict to create tension. The irony is that I really liked how the love triangle was tackled in the first book, because it avoided these issues and ended with a firm choice by McKenzie which felt so refreshing at the time. I know this is an UF but this felt a bit too much like a Paranormal Romance – and not in a good way – with the established tropes that were used.
I am not too sure if I will follow-up with the next book, although, I do want to know how the plot threads tie up. And maybe this is a middle-book syndrome. But overall I think I will wait for the reviews to see how things pan out to see if I want to pick up the next book. I dislike feeling this way. I think I am very burned out on the love triangle trope (which I am not a huge fan of) and this has firmly hit the nail on its head on why I dislike it.
I give The Shattered Dark a C-
We have a giveaway of The Shadow Reader, which is the first book in this series up for grabs. To enter – just comment below! The giveaway is open to residents in the US/Canada only (sorry) and it will end on midnight the 23rd of November!