A strange type of Rapunzel retelling, back when Luna was born in the kingdom of Relhook, the world descended into darkness. Basically, it became an eclipse where there are ladybugs the size of a fist, bats four feet tall, dwellers who are more than fine with a little cannibalism, toxic and rotting vegetation, and simply hopelessness. And here's a little twist-up: Luna is blind. Her whole life, she's been confined to this abandoned castle in the middle of Relhook's giant dark forest with her guardians, Perla and Sivo, with no future ahead of her, yet she sneaks off every once in a while to feel around the mysterious world she can't quite completely be a part of. And even though it's a castle, there's no one and nothing left to reign over. Then we meet Fowler, a contract warrior who's lost all hope in the world, who is forced to help guide Luna to the kingdom of Allu when the castle is hijacked out of nowhere. But how will they manage to get past the carnivorous, meticulously weird plants, foragers, cannibals and hunters?
I originally gave Reign of Shadows a 2.5/4, but the impact ended up fading a little quicker than I originally thought it would. Luna and Fowler were individually interesting characters but there was nothing that brought a big punch, whatsoever really.
My biggest flaw with the book is it comes out a little bit uninspired. Sophie Jordan has written and published several books before this one, and apart from some edgy decisions there isn't much to distinguish it. And there is actually a lot of cruelty in this book but it sometimes feels grounded in its teen demographic market. But if I can look past the fact and just read what Jordan made for me and admire the adventure, which was easy to do, it's a pretty fast, harmless and somewhat enjoyable read.
Reading from the point of view of a blind character is something so new it's irresistibly strange. Yes, Luna does stuff being blind shouldn't allow her to be good at but I can't help but feel she has extra abilities. Jordan manages to give her first-person narrative a good mix for her type of case, sniffing and hearing and making bizarrely mystical sentences about what must be in front of her or approaching. And by the end, I really cared if Luna was ever going to be able to see. Before we find out Luna's blind, Jordan manages to hide this fact in the text when we read from her point of view without giving the fact away completely.
I enjoyed the fact there's a cynical character in the mix; Fowler. Writing about negative people or ones that have views you might disagree with and still making them characters is tougher than you think. You have to be grounded in their personality without letting your own opposing view shine in. But Jordan succeeds with Fowler, a character who's basically dead on the inside and has given up grieving for people and becoming friends with any of them. If Fowler stayed that way a little longer the book would've probably gotten a higher grade.
When the book becomes a type of hike across this abyss of a universe, I was worried there would be a ton of pointless chapters that try to accurately depict the torture of continuously putting one foot in front of the other day after day and as a result make the book boring. And considering there's only two books in this series, I wish there was a little more. But thanks to all the interesting traps, plants and dwellers they come across, the world they're trudging across remains fascinating as they do so, allowing the journey a lot less agonizing than it might have been.
I won't spoil the ending, but I got to tell you...it's chilling. Though it could have been more tragic, and there's a twist-up that's a little obvious, there's a conflict Luna goes through that actually, the more you think about it, is troubling and scary. I'm sure if we had time to think about it further it would've been even more effective.
I read Reign of Shadows alongside Dream a Little Dream, in a sort of contest for which would be better. And I often resorted back to this book when the latter stayed slow, while this book stayed decently fast.