"It was almost as though her lack of sight made her stronger. Someone like her should be dead, but she wasn't. She was thriving. Maybe a world of dark was best suited for the blind."
~Fowler, REIGN OF SHADOWS
I didn't know quite what to expect when I picked up REIGN OF SHADOWS. It sounded like I could love it or hate it. I'd been indifferent to FIRELIGHT and never got around to finishing Sophie Jordan's debut teen fantasy series a few years ago. I also have never read any of her adult romance novels. I didn't really have any expectations, and so REIGN OF SHADOWS surpassed them all. I really enjoyed the first book in Jordan's new trilogy and can't wait to read more!
The book is an original fantasy with hints of the familiar. When we meet our protagonist Luna, she's locked away in a tower in the middle of the forest. The fairy tale lover in me instantly perked up: Was this a Rapunzel retelling!? (It wasn't). There's also a scene where a character is bound up outside and left for the Dwellers as a Sacrifice, which reminds me of so many tales and myths where young maidens are left for vicious dragons. I loved all of these traditional twists mixed into a new world.
Luna has never known life outside her tower. The world went dark the day she was born, and now "midlight" exists for one hour each day. Not only that, but her father's High Chancellor slayed him and crowned himself King. He never even knew that the Queen gave birth, thinking that she died still pregnant. Luna's existence and identity is a closely guarded secret. She's never known anyone save for Perla and Sivo, who have kept her safe and away from a world that has descended into madness and decay. Luna slips away one night to gather treats for Sivo's birthday meal and encounters a trio of people trapped, on the cusp of being consumed by Dwellers. She saves them and brings them back to her tower. But doing so brings danger to her door, and when Luna is forced to flee with one of the strangers, Fowler, her entire world changes. Now, she must rely on someone who prefers to work alone, someone who doesn't want her with him, and someone whom she might be falling hopelessly in love with despite the dangers that await them.
You can definitely see the romance writer in Jordan with her new series. There is a really gorgeous scene with firefly-like creatures that was a stand-out moment to me, and the couple's first kiss was one worth re-reading. Yes, it was a little insta-like, but there was enough standing between the characters, and real emotions were formed between them before anything really happened, so it worked. I normally am not a fan of the insta craze, but it worked and felt natural as the story progressed.
I also really liked the way she looked at disabilities in a new way. Readers find out right away that Luna is blind, and her story is told through smells and touches, not sight. She is able to navigate better than many people with working eyes can. There's a moment toward the end where she seems too good and able, but it's overshadowed by how natural her abilities feel in the rest of the novel. I thought it was an interesting, different take. We need more characters like Luna, characters who don't fret over their differences and compensate for weaknesses by being stellar in other areas. This element worked really well in the novel. I also REALLY loved the way Fowler was able to bring "sight" to Luna when he described things she couldn't physical see. There are two scenes in particular that really highlight his tenderness and add depth to Fowler and his relationship with Luna, and I really loved those interactions in particular.
There was one element of "surprise" that I called REALLY early on in the novel, and I wasn't disappointed to see it come to fruition during the course of the novel. I'm too good at guessing things, though, so I'm always disappointed in myself for never having any surprises to unwrap! I also have a guess about something that will happen in the first book, but will have to wait an entire year to see if I'm right! And I've got to tell you....the book ends in a way that will have you wanting that second book IMMEDIATELY. A year is very far away!!!!
Overall, I really enjoyed REIGN OF SHADOWS, and am looking forward to reading the next book, RISE OF FIRE. I was REALLY glad to hear this is a duology, not a trilogy, so I won't be in this position a second time with this series!! ^.~