Grace's Reviews > Shadowspell

Shadowspell by Jenna Black
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Jan 30, 11

bookshelves: young-adult, fantasy
Read in January, 2011

This entire series is too weird for me: there's some sort of sexual dynamic going on that completely freaks me out. Dana's constantly fixated on the closest breathing male (and possibly non-breathing, she's not been alone with a corpse yet). The men in these books control her every move, whether they're family or friends or enemies. Go ahead and take a look at the examples of female characters here: an insane/hysterical aunt, two unseen but homicidal queens, the obligatory best friend (solely for drinking, discussing boys and going to salons, obviously), and mother with absolutely no authority (who is ALSO being held against her will by a guy). Seriously. What the fuck?

If this is supposed to be some meta commentary on the importance of a father in a young girl's life, then... oh who am I kidding, it's not. And the sexual violence element ramps up in this installment as well, so that's special. Actually, that bit pisses me off enough to get a bit spoilery, so you've been warned:

...

So, we'll just glide right by the big bad guy suggesting Dana parole her non-boyfriend with her virginity, because I do not want to deal with that particular bodice-ripper trope. That is gross, and likely statutory rape if it happens anytime soon. But only a few pages later, we get this: in order to violate the parole agreement, Dana's aunt arranges for a linebacker to rape her in a tunnel as the aunt watches. This attempt unfolds across multiple pages, as Dana is being pinned to the wall and this leering total stranger is groping her, and her aunt comments insanely/pithily. The scene is very specific that this guy is unbuttoning her jeans, pulling down the zipper, and yanking them off her - you know, while he's also hitting her and grinning, because her aunt didn't just hire a guy to rape her, she hired a guy who would "enjoy it".

I'm a bit speechless here. Much like the rest of the book, there's no feeling here at all. It's an event that might as well read "[insert horrible event!]", because it's just there for shock value - it's a plot device crudely used . Manly men suddenly appear and stop the almost-rape, Dana appears to be unaffected, the evil aunt and rapist are summarily killed, all is... well? Because Dana is written as nothing but a cipher, of course she doesn't have any lasting reaction to being sexually assaulted - if it has nothing to do with boys or popularity, then apparently she isn't going to worry about it. There is no chat with her sole female friend or her mother (who lives in the same damn house, by the way), because apparently in this series a teenage girl would go through that very public experience and breeze right by it. In fact, what she seems most worried about is that the parolee guy who witnessed her almost-rape is now going to reject her because she can't have sex with him.

This is what you're getting into if you read this series. It's utter nonsense, and it's insulting.
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Comments (showing 1-13 of 13) (13 new)

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message 1: by Kelly (new)

Kelly Aley You saved me a few hours of reading.


message 2: by Kana (new)

Kana Ditto. Thank you. I would have found that appalling.


Terry (Ter05 TwiMoms/ MundieMoms) Glad to find someone who agrees with me about this book. I did manage to give it two stars.


message 4: by Nicole (new)

Nicole oh wow. Thanks, I think I'll save my money for another book...


Terry (Ter05 TwiMoms/ MundieMoms) Good choice, Nicole. I just sold mine back to the bookstore.


Liliana J'p Don't read something you do not like


Grace Liliana wrote: "Don't read something you do not like"

How on earth would you know you don't like something without reading it?


Terry (Ter05 TwiMoms/ MundieMoms) If I read reviews from people who like things similar to what I like or if the review sound like something I wouldn't like, I don't read it...and consider it something I would not like.


Liliana J'p This is the second book, if you did not like the first one, why would you read the second one?


Terry (Ter05 TwiMoms/ MundieMoms) If you are talking to me, I gave the first one 3 stars and decided to give this one a chance without reading reviews.


Liliana J'p No, I totally agree with you, I do the same. I read the reviews from people who like similar books and then I consider reading them, it's just that it seems absurd to me that someone reads the second book of a series if that people did not like the first one, but I guess everyone can do what they want.


message 12: by Grace (last edited Jan 18, 2012 07:40PM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Grace To be honest, I usually don't read reviews before choosing a book (though I certainly read them after) - I've found that my preference tends to get colored by the review I read, and I like going in with a clean slate. So I tend to go off of marketing and book jackets only, or a star rating – and just looking at the Goodreads rating for this one, it’s 4.10/5.00, so that wouldn’t have been a good indicator at all. Looking at star ratings or other reviews makes it possible for me to guess whether I'd like something, but I won't KNOW unless I read it myself.

(I'm guessing you don't like the review, Liliana, which is fine. But it's a bit weird to respond by commanding that I not read something, especially on a site that's all about book reviews.)

Also, I'm a serialist. If I start reading a series, I tend to stick with it, just like I usually complete a book if I start reading it. Not everyone's cup of tea, I know, but I'm a fast reader, and I also generally hope that writing/plotting/characterization improves as the series continues. Hard to believe, but I’m an optimist when I open a book.

Here's the thing: if I've picked up the series in the first place, then I usually think there's an interesting element to the core story. And if I didn't particularly like the first book (in this case, I found it rote and kinda boring), the second book gives the author a second bite at that apple - I WANT to like the series. The second book gives more space for complexity and I want to see if the author just needed room to move. I don't read books hoping to be irritated or disappointed, I read them hoping to have my initial interest validated.

A series has to be pretty bad for me to duck out. Thinking back, "Wheel of Time" was one I ditched, both due to the long waits between books and the eventual insanity of the plot. I did finish the Twilight series, because I really quite liked the first book and wanted the series to redeem itself. I won't be reading the sequel to "Beautiful Creatures", because that one actually bored me enough on its own - and actually, "Beautiful Creatures" I picked up based on glowing Amazon reviews, and I still have no idea what the hell those people were talking about. As for books I’ve quit, none spring to mind. (Though I certainly wish I’d punted Edgar Sawtelle, ugh.)

I'll be bailing on this series - though who knows, if I’m in a library with time to kill there's every chance I'll pick up the next one just to see if the writer ever dealt with the sexual assault or just waved it away. And then I’ll probably write a review.

As for it being "absurd" to read the second book in a series you didn't like - I guess I'll just have to live with being absurd? I can finish a book like this in two hours. It’s not a massive time investment, and I’m curious. I like to see where the story ended up, even if it then turns out I hate it.


message 13: by Anna (new) - rated it 1 star

Anna I should have read your review before reading this book. THE BOOK WAS AWFUL! What a waste of time! I also agree with you in regards to Edgar Sawtell. Ugh...


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