Publisher: Feiwel and Friends
Publication Date: February 25, 2020
Series or Standalone: Standalone
Links: Amazon – Barnes & Noble – Goodreads
I really wanted to like this book as I love Tricia Levenseller’s Daughter of a Pirate King duology. However, I really struggled with understanding the motivation of the characters in this book which made it really hard to buy into the overall premise and plot.
Billed as a darker YA fantasy romance, The Shadows Between Us follows Alessandra on her journey to marry and then kill the Shadow King so she can have all the power. No one knows much about the Shadow King. He doesn’t let people get close to him and touching him is illegal. Despite this, Alessandra does not waiver from her plans to seduce the king and then kill him. However, that’s easier said than done as she begins to develop feelings for him and helps him thwart other assassination attempts coming from an unknown entity.
I went into this book really liking the premise, but the book failed to deliver. My biggest struggle with this book comes down to the characters. I literally did not understand Alessandra’s motivation for anything in this book. Her reason to kill the king is because she wants to and so she has all the power. But there really isn’t an exploration into why she craves that power. There could have been an interesting exploration on gaining power given how society treats women and her father’s view of her worth, but what we get instead is incredibly surface level.
Alessandra also comes off as incredibly entitled, arrogant, vain, and childish yet there is no real good reason for it. Also, she’s a straight-up murderer and doesn’t see anything wrong with that. She murdered her first love at a young age when he said he didn’t love her anymore and she sees nothing wrong with that. Her solution seems to be when anything doesn’t go her way “well, I’ll just murder that person” which is NOT an actual solution. Since this book is from Alessandra’s point of view, it was really hard for me to like it as I did not like her character at all.
The Shadow King himself, whose name is Kallias Maheras, had potential. However, he also felt very flat and own dimensional to me. His power was interesting, but I feel like it was also a bit hard to understand how it worked at first. Due to a bit of lackluster world-building, I still don’t know if he’s the only person who has magic in this world or if there are others out there as well. He and Alessandra though are suited in some ways – he wants to keep acquiring power by conquering new lands with no real exploration into why.
Both Alessandra and the Shadow King are supposed to be a bit of evil/villain archetypes as this is supposed to be a kind of a villains romance, but I honestly don’t see that at all. They’re not really villains in my mind as they have no complexity, no depth and no real drive behind their actions.
The only character I ended up finding mildly intriguing was Leandros as he actually had a personality and some complexity to him. The reason for that complexity becomes more obvious at the end, which did almost change my feelings towards him because I, again, struggled to understand his motivations for his actions. Outside of that, all the other secondary characters barely merit a mention. The friends Alessandra makes are so one-dimensional that I don’t even remember their names.
In terms of the plot, I struggled with that a bit as well due to the lack of character motivation. It also felt like Levenseller was trying to have multiple subplots going on in addition to the overarching plot of Alessandra seducing and killing the king. The subplots, however, ended up feeling half-baked and not really contributing to the story much. They also ended up being resolved with little to no drama so I’m not really sure what they were bringing to the story. The big reveal at the end on who is trying to kill the king (besides Alessandra) felt predictable yet undeserved.
The only thing I did end up liking in this book was the romantic relationship that slowly builds and develops between Alessandra and the Shadow King. They seem to get on really well and I liked that it started with a fake courtship since they both had ulterior motives for being together. The relationship developed at a nice pace and I enjoyed watching Alessandra wrestle with her feelings of liking him and wanting to kill him. My only complaint with the relationship is they jumped into bed very quickly and then immediately there was drama afterward.
I know a lot of people really love this story, but I just don’t see the hype. I was honestly so sad that this didn’t work for me as the premise was so promising and I do really enjoy other works by Levenseller. I really would have liked some more complex, thought out characters as that would have made this story work a lot better for me. I think there is supposed to be a companion novel to this book coming out at some point, but I don’t think I’ll be picking that up.