Over at the Should Be Reading blog, MizB is having her WWW Wednesday meme. I’ll use this as an excuse to post on the best novel of 2011: The Shadow Reader, by Sandy Williams.
McKenzie has been loyally aiding the forces of the king of the fae during their civil war, but is forced through a fissure into their Realm by Aren, a leader of the rebels. The fae, who are human-size and use swords rather than technology for their battles, can fissure at will around their Realm and even into our world, and McKenzie is the key to this war: She can read the shadows left by the vanished fissures, pinpointing their destinations. Her ability gives an extreme advantage for the forces of the king, since they can pursue with superior forces the rebel fae who fissure away.
Kept a prisoner and at risk of her life unless she helps the rebels, McKenzie is forced to hear Aren’s view: The king’s forces are oppressors, militarily and economically. They’ve lied to her. Manipulated her. Made her think she was helping the good guys. But the rebels are the right side. They even teach her their fae language, which the king’s forces never did, so she can listen to their discussions and decide for herself.
McKenzie becomes confused and wonders if she’s suffering from Stockholm syndrome. It doesn’t help that Aren, though smirky, is a compelling masculine presence. After all, he keeps the other rebels from killing her, and he teaches her things about their side she never knew before. But she longs for Kyol, the king’s swordbearer, who has been at her side and protected her for ten years during this war. She and Kyol are in love, but can never reveal their forbidden affection—forbidden by the king, not by the rebel forces. McKenzie must choose. Which side is right? Which man really cares for her?
The Shadow Reader does not give easy answers for McKenzie. A simpler story would have her saying, “Okay, I’ll abandon everything I’ve known and join your side” in the first thirty pages. The rebels are threatening to kill her, but the king’s forces never taught her their language. Both sides commit war crimes. Is Aren lying to her? Has Kyol been manipulating her? And McKenzie is no shrinking violet. Her escape attempts are believable. (Finally, a kidnapped female who doesn’t just sit on her hands!) I highly recommend this one.
(Note: This book has a beautiful cover, but the main character does not carry a sword. Also, she has brown hair, not the more exotic blondish-brownish that’s shown. And there’s no indication she’s built like this cover model. But other than that, it’s just like her!)
My honorable mention goes to Dying Bites, by D.D. Barant.
FBI profiler Jace Valchek finds herself in an alternate dimension, where the vampires, werewolves, and golems have won, and humans are less than one percent of the population. So why should she help them solve a murder? See my full review of this novel.