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review 2015-02-28 02:01
Thoughts: The Caller
The Caller - Juliet Marillier

The Caller -- Juliet Marillier

Book 3 (Final) in Shadowfell trilogy

2014 Release -- Knopf Books

Young Adult, High Fantasy, Adventure, Magic, Romance



I'm caught between calling it 'Awesome!' and saying that there was still something left to be desired about The Caller. But ultimately, I enjoyed the heck out of this last book in the Shadowfell trilogy and loved the hell out of both Neryn and Flint and even the minor and not-so-minor supporting characters.

There were only a few things in the broken world of Shadowfell's kingdom that had me questioning logic... but then I would turn around and find a way to justify what I had thought didn't make any sense. Just as well, since there were also a few things about the story's progression that felt predictable as well, but that I said "whatevs" to and continued to read and enjoy the book without analyzing it.

And so in the long run, I just ended up deciding to throw my objectivity out the window and just give the book a completely biased rating based solely on how much I loved the book, the conclusion, and the series in general, the world, the culture, the back-history... pretty much everything about this book was pretty damn awesome!

On a side note, I noticed that my rating kept climbing higher and higher with each book. Keep in mind that this has more to do with my influenced enjoyability as I got to know the characters, the setting, the world, the Good Folk and their ways, and Neryn and Flint and Tali et al, as the story progressed. Sometimes when you become invested in a world and its characters, it's hard NOT to finally fall completely in love with them.

Because the endless traveling and long-drawn out days of Neryn waiting and waiting and waiting were an ongoing theme in all three books; however, while they felt uneventful and monotonous and long-winded in Shadowfell, they started giving me a sense of excitement as the last two books progressed.

It's strange how much leeway you're willing to give certain similar writing styles and repetitive themes and predictable story progression if you just so happen to be steadfastly in love with a book. Yea. It's a thing.

The conclusive war against the oppressive King Keldec and his psychotic queen and manipulative councilors is finally drawing near as the seasons change. The Midsummer Gathering is right around the corner and Neryn must continue on with her training in spite of the tragedies and concerns flowing over from where we last left off in Raven Flight. Because Tali has been seen in public at the Midwinter Gathering, she can no longer accompany Neryn to seek out the last two Guardians--just as well, Tali is needed at Shadowfell to finalize the rebellion's last plans in the place of Regan who has lost his life on a technicality mission gone wrong.

Now traveling with Neryn is Whisper, an owl-like Good Folk who is able to transport her from one place to another, saving precious travel time in order to finish her training before the Midsummer Gathering. Along the way she meets new allies and friends who prove just as significant in the ending outcome of the rebellion. But more obstacles surface as Neryn learns of the frail state the Good Folk of the East are in, then following is shown a gruesome parade of Good Folk by the King's Enforcers, that can only mean that Keldec has found Caller for his own twisted greed and use.

The tides of the rebellion may have changed now unless Neryn can find a way to turn everything back around.

I like that each book of Shadowfell has ongoing twists and turns and secret surprises as the story progresses. And I like that with each new obstacle, Neryn only becomes stronger, more determined, as well as much more steadfast in her belief of the rebels' cause. Despite not being the warrior woman that Tali is, whom I missed in this book, by the way, Neryn has her own brand of strength and resourcefulness and tact.

It's slightly inconceivable that one young girl was able to do all that she did in The Caller and make such a big influencing change among the human folk and the uncanny Good Folk just by being present, but I'll live with it. It gave rise to some interesting story progression, that's for sure; and it took the story in the direction it needed to go.

The endgame was a little too neatly packaged, to be honest, but as a big fan of Happily Ever Afters and satisfying endings, I'm not complaining.

The Caller also became very 'Flint'-significant, more so than the first two books had been. I've always been very 'meh' about books written in 1st person POV, but I accept them as they are anyway. When a book starts taking on multiple POVs, alternating between 1st and 3rd, though, I get a little wary. Fortunately, the transitions were smooth enough that it didn't bother me, and at the same time we get an insight into Flint's mind and his actions, which was not bad at all.

Did I mention that Flint still comes off as kind of swoon-worthy despite his continued plunge into misery? Well, he kind of is. And even though the romance in the Shadowfell series is fairly backseat, there's still enough mention of it here and there to continue solidifying just how strong the bond between Neryn and Flint has become after all this time. It's nice to see a developing romance that didn't start from instalove, that doesn't become a handicap for our characters, that doesn't end up the main priority of the couple's lives, but still managed to feel significant, strong, and exude warm and fuzzy feelings whenever the two of them were allowed their rare moments alone together.

Final Thoughts: The Caller was definitely full of significant progression, with a new turn of events each time we think a chapter in Neryn's adventure has come to pass. There is little time to dwell on past events as a new one unfolds almost immediately with our characters constantly moving forward until the final stages of the rebellion come to light.

The conclusion to this book as well as the series is well-rounded and satisfying, but purposefully leaves an open-ended "there are still many things to do for the future of Alban" out there. However, in the end, it IS a final ending and I doubt much more will be said about Neryn or Flint or Alban. The world of Alban and it's histories are rich and extensive, but not overwhelming. The characters were created and developed excellently, each with their own personal stories, each with their own purpose even if it's not evident in the present setting.

Juliet Marillier definitely created a wonderful world in Shadowfell, the type that I wouldn't mind revisiting again and again, as even the minor characters seem to have untold stories that could become an adventure of their own. Her writing is smooth, beautiful, descriptive, almost magical... what more is there to ask for?

There are... parallels that stood out for me. And maybe I'm just looking too hard or seeing things where they really aren't.

But the beginning of the series--the constant traveling with not much really happening--was reminiscent of The Hobbit, wherein I recall telling people that the first 50% of the book is traveling and walking and world and story build-up. That's fine. That's how most high fantasy adventures are anyway. But then there was the ending which also reminded me, once again, of Tolkien and it made me... well, I didn't how what to think about it. How Neryn and Flint are boarding a boat and everyone of their friends are standing around, bidding them farewell. I mean, it's not like it's an exact replica of the ending from Lord of the Rings movie where Frodo leaves on a boat... but it's there.

(spoiler show)

Maybe it's just me. Not that it influenced how much I enjoyed the series though, so it's a moot point. 

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review 2015-02-26 01:17
Thoughts: Raven Flight
Raven Flight - Juliet Marillier

Raven Flight -- Juliet Marillier

Book 2 in Shadowfell trilogy

2013 Release -- Knopf Books

Young Adult, High Fantasy, Adventure, Magic, Romance



In a strange way, Raven Flight reminded me of an adventuring, single-player RPG. Specifically, I had thoughts of the Zelda games as I read about Neryn's adventure throughout Alban in search of the Guardians.

First, you've got the ultimate 'Final Boss' you must defeat; but before you can defeat him, you must journey through to different places and improve upon your fighting skills as well as acquire the different knowledge, means, precious items, treasures, etc. that are needed to fight the ultimate battle. You journey away from home and learn that you have the ability, that you are the one chosen to help free the lands. You then reach a point where you finally accept and comprehend (even if very little) the role you must play in this war. Then you are told by some prophet or some random higher being, that there are several trials you must accomplish, knowledge that must be acquired, treasures to seek... whatever it is. Then finally, you gather all of your strengths and use all means you have learned to defeat the 'Final Boss'.

I suppose the only difference so far is that Neryn doesn't have smaller, less significant, yet necessary 'Bosses' at different areas to defeat along her way. But if she did, that would be pretty neat.

I didn't pick up on this idea until after I started reading Raven Flight. I'm still not sure if it's the right comparison to make, but the thought came to me and it stuck.

The rebellion against King Keldec has taken a turn with a deadline in the midst and a secret weapon on the rebels' side. Neryn must now hurry across the lands of Alban to seek out the "Big Ones", or the four guardians of north, south, east, and west. As the Master of Shadows has mentioned, Neryn still has a lot to learn about her canny gift of being a Caller and in order to do so, only the Guardians can teach her.

Neryn, with a reluctant Tali as her guard, first travel to the west to see the Hag of the Isles before heading north to wake the Lord of the North. But their journey is a dangerous on with Enforcers about and common folk ready to betray any stranger at the sight of anything unnatural.

Meanwhile, the Good Folk, having agreed to aid in the rebellion's efforts, have already spread word from area to area. Uncanny beings of big and small are well versed in the goings on of their Caller as well as the rebellion itself. Though some are reluctant, the Good Folk do not hesitate to aid Neryn's journey through the lands with small bits of advice here and there, or simply just trivial gestures. Neryn is well on her way to learning and honing her skills as a Caller, though she still has one more Guardian to meet, as well as one other Guardian to find again.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It's an adventure of a quiet kind, but there's an underlying tone of building excitement as the story progresses. Neryn's development is immense, though I would say that she was already quite well-developed to begin with. Tali stands out most of all as her character comes upon her own growth and transformation from being the harsh leader tasked with babysitting an amateur Caller, to acknowledging Neryn's strength and seeing her as an equal for their cause. Flint gets little time in this book outside of snippets here and there, but his presence is very much felt--though I can't say that much happens in the sense of character development for him since he continues to live his double life as a rebel spy and continues to drown in the misery of all he must do and all the responsibility on his shoulders.

The story progression feels like it's pacing forward nicely, although really, the only things that have happened is Neryn meeting the Guardians, learning that she already has what it takes to be a Caller, learning that she's already quite adept at using her gift, and then learning ways to better improve her skills. A lot of time passes by as Neryn is tested again and again, seemingly to further tout her claim as a Caller. A lot of time passes as she continues to struggle with her conflicted feelings about whether or not she should even use her gift in the first place and whether or not she can use her gift properly.

While it's a good virtue to have in a hero, sometimes you DO wonder why Neryn is still so hesitant and why it continues to take so many days just for her to figure out certain obvious tacts upon meeting the Guardians.

But anyway...

Final Thoughts: Adventures are my favorite types of fantasy stories and Raven Flight certainly hit upon all the perfect notes of an high fantasy adventure. Now that the setting is much more developed and much more matured from the events of Shadowfell I feel like there's a smoother progression in this second book for all the same ideals. The story certainly picks up more in this sequel than the pacing had been from the first book, which is rare considering the fact that sequels usually don't impress much.

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review 2015-02-16 13:36
Thoughts: Shadowfell
Shadowfell - Juliet Marillier

Shadowfell -- Juliet Marillier

Book 1 in Shadowfell trilogy

2012 Release -- Knopf Books

Young Adult, High Fantasy, Adventure, Magic, Romance



I really wanted to love this book mainly because I love Juliet Marillier's writing style--her use of creative detail and lyrical narration has a sort of beauty to it. Like magic. And the one thing I can honestly say about Shadowfell that I did love, a hundred percent, was the writing and the world building. The characters I'm slightly lukewarm about, the story was well-thought, and the concept was good.

But the progression was quite slow and it took some time before I understood the direction of the story line.

Nonetheless, Shadowfell is a very well-written high fantasy with a wonderfully created world that I intend to continue diving into.

Alban is a dark place ruled by an evil king. Those with special canny abilities such as Neryn are either killed or taken to do His Majesty's bidding. The intermingling of the uncanny creatures--fey beings--and humans is against the law. And a Culling takes place regularly to seek out and destroy all who possess special gifted abilities, all who have any relation with the uncanny folk, and even those who may have come in contact with or own items created by the fey beings.

Neryn has been on the run since her family was destroyed, her grandmother and brother perishing at the hands of King Keldec's own elite army of Enforcers. But she possesses a magical ability that, if found out, could either mean the further destruction of Alban at Keldec's hands, or a possible future of freedom for Alban's common folk.

With the death of her father, Neryn now travels to the secret place of Shadowfell, a place of rebels where there are people of whom she can have a possible future; a place where no one will be frightened of her abilities nor look upon her in anger or disgust nor turn her into the Enforcers. Along her adventure, she begins to realize the extent and significance of her abilities as she meets and befriends the fey beings called the Good Folk as well as other uncanny creatures who might aid her in her travels.

Shadowfell had a slow start, then got exciting, then became a little monotonous again, and then finally ended on a well-thought out, inspiring, yet not quite exciting note. With Neryn traveling by herself for a good portion of the book and coming across several mysterious, magical events, as well as performing different acts to establish her virtues, I had hoped that the traveling adventure would have been a little more interesting. But from the moment she starts her journey alone, each event seemed to go by on a flat note with each happening occurring in a too convenient fashion to get Neryn where she needs to be, both physically and literally.

It's a very long-winded high fantasy of adventure and lots and lots of traveling... which to be honest, was one of the things that I had always found boring about some high fantasies (The Hobbit being a prime example of great world building, but a long, monotonous story set up that followed a lot of monotonous traveling by the single protagonist of the book.) Of course, without the first half of set up, we wouldn't be able to move forward to where the story needs to be to pick up it's continuing adventure.

So it's conflicting to me whether or not I liked it.

The characters didn't really do much for me, though they definitely had a lot of potential and a lot of significance within the story line. The entire experience just seemed to go by in such a blur that I felt a little less than piqued to be excited.

Although I did find the friendship between Neryn and Flint rather sweet despite the fact that 80% of the book found them keeping secrets from each other and Neryn not even trusting Flint. Is it strange that by the time the conclusion rolled around, I actually found Flint a bit swoony even though he doesn't really have too much book time and doesn't stand out all that well?

Stranger things have happened, I suppose.

Overall Thoughts: Enjoyable, but not as exciting or intriguing as I'd hoped. Beautiful writing and wonderfully created world with well-crafted back history, and decent enough characters to follow.

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review 2014-09-19 13:20
Enjoyable journey
Shadowfell - Juliet Marillier

I enjoyed Shadowfell. I liked the characters and the way the story progressed (most of it, anyway) and although there was a lot of detail, it seemed necessary, until the climax anyway. At that point I felt we could have done without a lot of the detail, especially since much of it was covering old ground. It made the pace slow quite a bit. As the story got into its later stages, there was also a bit of repetition in the action. However, it was still an engaging story and I liked experiencing Neryn's journey alongside her.

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review 2014-09-15 18:49
The Caller by Juliet Marillier
The Caller - Juliet Marillier

This is the third book in a now completed trilogy. Two things:


First: I don't think that this really needed to be a trilogy, although I do think that the story needed more than one book. It probably could have been done as a duology. No one seems to write those, though, and I don't know why.


Second: Nonetheless, as you can see, I gave this a very high rating. This series hits a lot of my personal buttons, and I found the ending deeply satisfying.


A disappointment:



There was one thing that really did disappoint me though. For the first two books, we are led to believe that the King, Keldec, was evil. By this final book, though, where Marillier seems to end up is that Keldec was merely weak, but his wife, Valda was evil, and a bit of a sadist as well, taking pleasure in the pain inflicted on others.


Marillier's world isn't wholly patriarchal. In fact, kingship passes matrilinially, as she (almost parenthetically) tells us. But it bugged me that she chose to make the person in control - who was male - weak, and the person manipulating him - who was evil - his wife. It felt cheap to me.

(spoiler show)



I love the way that Marillier writes her romantic subplots. She is not a romance novelist, but her fantasies do generally have romantic themes. She is not one for insta-love, and her protagonists have to work at it to find happiness. I thought that the romance between Neryn and Flint was lovely.


I really did enjoy the world-building as well. Alban is an agrarian society, loosely Celtic in nature, with a more Scottish feel than the world of Sevenwaters. I loved the Good Folk, in their myriad of forms and guises. Some were recognizable to me: selkies and brollachan.  Many were unnamed, but still familiar. While Marillier is no GRRM, characters to whom I was attached died in the rebellion.


I liked the ending. It was sad, yet still hopeful, happy, but serious. Very satisfying.

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