Becca's Reviews > Ursus: In The Shadow Of The Bear

Ursus by David   Randall
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May 18, 13

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Read in April, 2013


Warning: This review contains spoilers.

I really don’t know what was wrong with this one. Maybe it’s that I read it too fast to appreciate it. Maybe it just didn’t have the substance of the others. But if I was going to take a guess, I’d have to say that it was just so damn depressing. No, really. I mean, I still enjoyed it, but there was something about it that wasn’t right. Don’t get me wrong – the descriptions, dialogue and overall plot are still amazingly well done, but it just doesn’t deserve five stars. Sorry, Randall, it was a valiant effort.

The books in the Shadow of the Bear series have always been serious. Randall doesn’t shy away from giving you the gory details, letting you know how many have died, feeling the pain and grief of his characters - which can actually be oddly refreshing, sometimes. But the difference between Ursus and the other three is that, in Clovermead, Chandlefort, and Sorrel, we could still see the light shining through the darkness. It was never bleak, as such. There was still light, and love, and laughter, and things that made the stories in the book worth fighting for, rather than wanting to give up because it was just a bleak helpless struggle, with no hope. Ursus wasn’t quite that bad, but it did get a bit bleak. And I did still enjoy it, because, let’s face it, Randall wrote it and it’s still part of the series, with the same loveable characters and a few quirky new ones. But this time you could really feel the Shadow of the Bear.

This darkness that I’ve been talking about started pretty much right from square one. Clovermead has been waiting for Sorrel to come back for three years, and now that he’s almost here she starts to feel that she doesn’t miss him so much. She’s angry at him because he didn’t turn up on day one, the day after the period ended that he’d specified. Grow up, girl. But then I thought; "Hey, maybe give her a bit of a break. He’s been gone a long time, she’s sure to miss him really badly." And then what does she go and do? Have this little flirtation with a guy called Lacebark. My reaction to this? Oh, HELL, NO. NOT. F***ING. COOL. Three years? And you’ve almost got what you want, and you have to start agonizing over this incredibly handsome yet insufferably insolent and flirtatious guy, who, by the way, stole your purse. Yeah, he’s a real catch.

Still, I am happy that Randall found someone for Saraband to be with. Lacebark was a really good choice for her – he’s handsome and rakish and dances well. But more than anything, I’m glad that Saraband could be with someone who didn’t just care about her for her looks. I mean, Lacebark had seen pretty women before, and only flirted with them. But what made her stand out for him was her love of healing people, her wish to save lives, and her kindness. So that I was happy about. I was also happy that Meadowlark was finally re-united with her daughter. That was one of the most touching parts of the whole book; however, Meadowlark's anger and the cruelty that came from it made me less forgiving than perhaps others would be. She almost deserved to lose her daughter, but Saraband deserved her mother back, so I will not complain... much.

So yeah; the story goes on, there is a lot of fighting, and worst of all Clovermead and Sorrel are a bit uneasy together, which breaks my heart, because they used to be the light and soul of the story. Even when they were truly fighting, there was a fire in their relationship. For a while in Ursus the fire went out, and all Clovermead could think about was kissing that other dude, and how angry she was at Sorrel for leaving her. (view spoiler)

It took me a while to realize that every… fourth chapter? I think it was every fourth chapter, or otherwise it was every third chapter. Anyway, every fourth chapter was a dream about Boulderbash. That was a nice touch too, because in the third book it was like “Shut up, Boulderbash, I’m getting sick of your whining.” (That was me, by the way, not anyone else thinking that… I think). But this time you get to see how much she loved her little Ursus, and how he managed to turn into something so horrible. But she still, in a way, just couldn’t stop loving him. And Boulderbash had the cruellest fate of all: (view spoiler)

The ending of the book was good, aside from one thing. I really, really, REALLY have a problem with prophecies in books that – far from changing or being interpreted differently to make them into a plot twist – are followed through bleakly and depressingly through to the letter, without any hope for the characters or the readers. (view spoiler)

Now, the last spoiler regarding the end of the book;(view spoiler)

So yeah. That’s my little rant ended. Ursus was a worthy end to a wonderful series, with wonderful characters that are now familiar, and the scenery, plot development – everything was good. But it just didn’t measure up to it’s predecessors – it’s predecessor’s didn’t have any inherent flaws, and unfortunately, at least for me, Ursus did. In the end, though it was good, it was just a bit too sad for me.

Hail to the Shadow of the Bear series. I will miss you, until we meet again.
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Comments (showing 1-21 of 21) (21 new)

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message 1: by Jaq (new)

Jaq Have yet to read it, and couldn't contain myself to find out what does happen to Clovermead and Sorrel....I think you're right - there is no way she would walk away from her responsibilities - that's what she's learnt every book, has her dealing with this...


Becca Well, it is still a good book, for all that, just not as good as its predecessors. Have you read Sorrel, then? :)

You know, I actually got an email from David Randall, who joined Goodreads and then read my review! He wrote me a very complimentary email saying how much he enjoyed reading all of my reviews, and then explained some of his choices in writing Ursus. You should have seen my face when I woke up that morning and found out who I had an email from... o_O


message 3: by Jaq (new)

Jaq that is incredibly flattering - woo hoo....

Yes finished Sorrel - quite unsatisfied with the way it ended - glad there is a fourth......


message 4: by Jaq (new)

Jaq Argh the library doesn't have it....must request it as a new book - how outrageous!!!!


Becca I know, I was stoked! And then quickly went to check I didn't say anything particularly disparaging in my reviews. :D

I loved Sorrel, and I was okay with how it ended! I mean, it wasn't brilliant, but the rest of the book was so great and emotional that I could forgive it. In fact, it took me ages to realise there was a fourth book!

Aw, that sucks. :( But it really isn't a very common book, so I suppose your library can be grudgingly forgiven.


message 6: by Jaq (new)

Jaq I've NOW ORDERED it and forgot to turn the caps lock off...hahaha

I thought Sorrel was it...and I was outraged at the ending I'm like you just can't leave us hanging here....

Then I tracked down your review and went hurrah a fourth to finish it off...


Becca Haha, nice! I hope it's worth the wait. :)

Well, when I thought Sorrel was the last novel I found it kind of nice that they were leaving it ambiguous-yet-hopeful. Ursus wraps things up much more definitely, and it is a great book, but it isn't as good as the others; and certain parts of it piss me off so much that I wish Sorrel had been the last novel.

Glad my review could be of some use!


message 8: by Jaq (new)

Jaq It was!!! Thank you!!!! Now am waiting impatiently for the library to acquire the next book!!!


message 9: by Becca (last edited Sep 09, 2014 08:21PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Becca You're very welcome! :) I hope your library gets the book for you quickly.


message 10: by Jaq (new)

Jaq So do I!!! I'm like let me finish at least one series!!!!


Becca It would be great if you could! But surely you must have finished a series before?


message 12: by Jaq (new)

Jaq Too many to name, but this year I'm reading several series and the frustrating thing is waiting for the next books to arrive via the library.....


message 13: by Becca (last edited Sep 11, 2014 05:18AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Becca It does sound frustrating. :(

Good news on my side, though! I could have sworn I told my brother about "Ursus", but he insists that I didn't, and he was shocked I hadn't said anything about it. He told me he loved the series when I gave it to him to read a couple of years ago, and he just decided to re-read them all to remind himself of their events before going on to read the final novel. :) So happy!


message 14: by Jaq (new)

Jaq Oh see that's wonderful - good work!!!! I've got a friend convincing me to read the Hunger Games...have you read that???


message 15: by Becca (last edited Sep 13, 2014 05:26PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Becca Yes, I have - only the first novel in the series though, not the second or third, as I've heard that those two go downhill somewhat. The Hunger Games was quite exciting and I did quite like it, which was impressive considering I went into it not particularly wanting to like it. So yes, it's good, I think. :) That being said, it's definitely not my favourite book, not by a long shot.


message 16: by Jaq (new)

Jaq I'll give it a go then, cause I have to say the movie was one of those that I didn't really care for.....so I was like...oh really, you say it's that good (she's in her 60's and loves them!!!)


Becca Hehe, I actually quite liked the movie myself. Again, it's not my favourite, but still quite good, and I possibly liked it slightly better than the book. So yes, overall, Hunger Games = good but not mind-blowing. :)


message 18: by Jaq (new)

Jaq So few books live up to the mind blowing.... that when you do read a really awesome book you go wow....and it makes it harder for all the other books that follow....same with movies. I watched the Winter Soldier and I was expecting something similar to The Avengers movie and I went, not bad, but where were all the funny jokes?????


Becca That is very true. I'm not really too familiar with the Avengers films... but if you're looking for mind-blowing novels, I might have some suggestions. If you're at all interested in political fantasy, I highly recommend the Daughter of the Empire, the first in the Empire series by Raymond E. Feist. Now THAT was mind-blowing, the entire series; I'm always impressed, no matter how many times I read it.


message 20: by Jaq (new)

Jaq I tried reading that a long time ago - in a galaxy far far away - I may give it another go, especially as you've recommended it though.....


Becca I freely admit to there being slow periods occasionally, but overall it really is fantastic. The world building is amazing, absolutely love the main characters, the other characters are very well developed... and the cover is quite pretty. :D


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