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3.69  ·  Rating details ·  4,295 ratings  ·  737 reviews
A compelling and inventive novel set in a world where science and magic are at odds, by Robin McKinley, the Newbery-winning author of The Hero and the Crown and The Blue Sword, as well as the classic titles Beauty, Chalice, Spindle’s End, Pegasus and Sunshine
Maggie knows something’s off about Val, her mom’s new husband. Val is from Oldworld, where they still use magic, an
Hardcover, 356 pages
Published September 26th 2013 by Nancy Paulsen Books (first published September 1st 2013)
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Average rating 3.69  · 
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 ·  4,295 ratings  ·  737 reviews

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Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽
3.5 stars. Robin McKinley's books have gotten more difficult to read over the years. Beauty, The Blue Sword and The Hero and the Crown are all fairly straightforward, charming fantasies. I don't think it's a coincidence that those early McKinley novels are my favorites. As time went on, incomprehensible and often nightmarish scenes started showing up in her books (Sunshine, Deerskin, Spindle's End) although overall I still liked them pretty well. More recently she has written a few that are so o ...more
Khanh, first of her name, mother of bunnies
In my youth, I have read and loved all of Robin McKinley's fantasies. Therefore, it is with a considerable amount of disappointment that I have to admit that I wish she had stuck to that genre after reading this book. Shadows provided me with little enjoyment. This could be considered fantasy, but it is a convoluted sort of fantasy that makes little or no sense. The world building is confusing. The lingo is nonsensical. I desperately wished for a glossary, footnotes, anything to help me with the ...more
Nov 10, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: september-2013, own, arc
*This is an ARC review.
Any excerpts or quotes are taken from an unfinished copy
and are therefore subject to change before the final print*

Opening Line

This story starts out like something out of a fairy tale: I hated my stepfather.

My Take On It

Guys, I have read a lot of books, and I have a lot of authors I love, but there is one author I am particularly fangirly/ borderline obsessive about: Robin McKinley. It was about three or four years ago that I read my first McKinley book, Sunshine, a urba
Sep 30, 2013 rated it it was ok
I wanted to like it. But... well, no.

- McKinley writes about animals and 'critters' very well, but I feel she's getting a little lazy in the process. Whatever happens, throw in some dogs, cats, and other creatures and you'll be protected.

- the narrator is an origami aficionada, and accordingly it felt the narrative was getting folded on itself A LOT, a bunch of rambling non sequiturs that served to 'introduce' the world setting and to give some backstory... but most of it was tedious, badly time
Nov 18, 2013 rated it did not like it
I never in a million years would have ever thought I'd rate a McKinley novel with only one star. But good grief, Shadows was a total trainwreck.

It seems like more and more, McKinley is writing "origin story" type novels that conclude when the real adventure is actually starting. That trope has worked well for her in the past, as with Sunshine, primarily because of her knack for writing really interesting, sympathetic, 3-dimensional characters. Did I want The Further Adventures of Sunshine and He
Apr 04, 2013 added it
"Shadows" is McKinley channelling Diana Wynne Jones, a fact which is foregrounded by the book's dedication.  The focus on family, the combination of a magical and a technological world, and the cascading chaos of the story's climax all bring Jones' work strongly to mind. There's some particular similarities to Witch Week.
The thrust of the story is dystopian - while it starts out seeming to be about a problematic step-father, it segues into a focus on the society (although this relies a little o
Jul 12, 2013 rated it really liked it
I should start with a disclaimer, I was predisposed to like this book. I adore Robin McKinley, I’ve read Rose Daughter something like fourteen times, it was my go-to comfort read when I was in high school. That said, Shadows was fantastic all over the place. It’s full of patented Robin McKinley magic: extended adoptive family units, a band of (for the most part) animal companions and a lovely, satisfying romance. And magic, did I mention magic? Lots and lots of magic.


Head on over to Cuddlebugger
Jessica Lewenda
Jan 07, 2013 marked it as tbr-2013-release  ·  review of another edition
WHAT? New Robin McKinley book? Oh gosh, I am so excite.
Sep 29, 2013 rated it did not like it
I wanted this to be a sequel to Sunshine, and maybe McKinley did too -- because things would tiptoe up to that line -- and then fart on it.

Maybe I just have no patience with YA literature anymore? SAY IT ISN'T SO. Because I wanted to shake the narrator for her ninny-headed-ness, and there was a lot of OMG MAYBE HE LIKES ME OMG MAYBE, and stop wondering if you are born special or born normal because you have to do your best regardless and I am so much less interested in Lucky Genetics than I am
Jun 27, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: youngadult, fantasy
I kept hearing John Cleese in my head, "And now for something completely different!" So different! McKinley's last book, PEGASUS was a lush depiction of a magical land where the royal family are all paired up with pegasii, but it's covering up a darker deception. Here is a contemporary story of a teenage girl living in New World (America) where all magic has been stamped out. Those who care a genetic predisposition for magic have it surgically removed, and magic users are severely punished. Ente ...more
Jodi Meadows
Sep 16, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I just want to move into Robin's brain. That's not weird, right? ...more
Jan 25, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
So many commas. So many hyphens.

I can’t read any more Robin McKinley books. For a long time, I’ve counted her among my favorite authors, but this was the end. To a point, her distinctive stream-of-consciousness style can be endearing and unique, atypical... but in Shadows, she’s adopted the voice of a seventeen-year-old-girl who is unable or unwilling to follow standard English grammar and simply writes the way she would talk. The breaks and digressions and teenager-jabber are very irritating to
Oct 14, 2013 rated it really liked it
Here’s something I hope you know about me by now: Robin McKinley is one of my favorite authors. Ever. I’ve read everything she’s written at least twice, and some of her books I’ve reread more times than I can count. So from the first page of “Shadows,” I fell right back in with McKinley’s writing style, and even though this book came out just a couple weeks ago, it immediately felt comforting and familiar.

Of the books McKinley’s written, I think “Shadows” is most closely related in style to “Dra
Whitley Birks
Jul 25, 2013 marked it as dnf
Stopped at 80(ish) pages in, so no rating, just rambling.

This book and I just didn't jive. If it was merely a bad book, I could have kept going (as many of you well know), but instead it was a...mediocre book that didn't sit with me. Nothing to get worked up about, but nothing to enjoy, either.

There were things that didn't sit with me that will for other people. The voice of the character is very young, peppered liberally with "uhg"s and "oh my gods" and whining. It's a little younger than her g
Alyssa Nelson
Sep 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
McKinley is one of my all-time favorite authors, so I’ll never pass up a chance to read one of her books. It’s so funny, though, because they all follow a very similar pattern. For all of her books, I’m supremely bored for the first 50 pages or so while she sets up the world and then BAM! something happens, and I can’t stop reading. Shadows was no different. I read the first few chapters wondering if I should slog through or give up and then everything turned on its head and I was in for the rid ...more
I don't like giving up on books, but after getting well over a third of the way through Shadows I'm still not feeling it. It's not what I was expecting. Someone compared it to McKinley's book Sunshine, which I really liked, so I guess I was expecting something like that.

My mind keeps wandering and to some extent I think that's due to the writing. Don't get me wrong, this is not a bad book. It's kind of different, but I'm not sure exactly what makes it feel different to me. Maybe it's the way it
Jun 22, 2013 rated it liked it
There are few effortless worldbuilders out there, and Robin McKinley is one of them. Diana Wynne Jones was one, and Justine Larbelestier definitely has the knack. Even in short snippets, their stories make it abundantly clear that we're not in Kansas anymore, without clobbering the reader over the head with infodumps and gee-golly newcomer characters.

And I love that. I love that even in Larbelestier's slightly-frothy-seeming How to Ditch Your Fairy, she opened a window into a uniquely marvelous
Maggie lives in a country that used gene therapy to cut magic out of its citizens, and destroys any instance of the fantastical on sight. But her new step-dad is surrounded by writhing shadows that not everyone can see, her best friend turns into a dog, and Maggie has the ability to heal rips in reality. So clearly the gene therapy isn't perfect.

McKinley wrote some of my very favorite books of all time ( Beauty, Sunshine...) but I could barely bring myself to read this. Every page annoyed me. T
Oh, boy. DNF @ 13%.
I hate not finishing books, especially when I’ve barely scratched the surface, but this one was just … so, so bad.

So far, in what I read, Maggie is an incredibly judgmental person who takes a huge disliking to her new stepfather, Val, and the strange, moving and wiggling shadows he carries around with him. She and her family live in Newworld, a world built on science that seems to have … done away with all magic from the Oldworld. I’m sure the book would expand on that (so far
Lark of The Bookwyrm's Hoard
Apr 04, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: young-adult, fantasy, crrl
Review originally published at The Bookwyrm's Hoard.

It often seems to me that there are two distinct Robin McKinleys. There's the lyrical, even poetic spinner of fairy tales like Spindle's End and Rose Daughter and The Blue Sword, and the more contemporary fantasy voice which produced Dragonhaven and Shadows. What links the two together is McKinley's approach to magic. In every book she writes, magic is unpredictable, incomprehensible, instinctive, and unknowable. It may follow patterns, but it
Jun 30, 2014 rated it liked it
Unlike many of the author's previous novels, this isn't set in a fantasy world, but rather an alternate reality that in some ways mirrors our own, while in others is quite different. I enjoy alternate world stories, but it took me a while to get into the spirit of this novel.

To begin with, I found the heroine rather whiny and angsty. And the constant use of slang unique to this world may be a good example of world-building, but for some reason it annoyed the heck out of me. However, I kept read
Nov 21, 2013 rated it really liked it
Reading Diane Wynn Jones is a lot like going to a foreign country. You have to learn the language and a bit about the culture to enjoy the beautiful things she's going to show you. Reading Robin McKinley is the same way. Reading Shadows, which was dedicated to Jones, is a slow read that is all about the journey and not the destination because you want the adventure to continue. I wasn't sure I wanted to read this despite loving every other McKinley book that I read. I held off buying it. I took ...more
MB (What she read)
3.5 stars first read 10/10/13:
I enjoyed this one much more than Pegasus. Probably because I found Maggie to be comparatively likeable and less of a whiner. Plus, she actually took action to make things better, instead of sitting around and moaning...Yay!

The end was kind of a fizzle though. I wish there was some sort of catharsis, but really other than kissing and family get-togethers, there wasn't--at least not for me. As far as plot, nothing was settled. A big huge fizzle of a HFN with tons of
Oct 23, 2013 rated it liked it
I liked this book, but with two pretty significant caveats. First, I don't think McKinley is very good at writing teenagers (see also: Dragonhaven). Shadows is a first person perspective of a girl who is a senior in high school, but she seems to act like someone much older. To some degree, the extent to which I could enjoy the book depended on how much I could ignore that it was supposed to be about teenagers.

The second caveat is that the ending felt more like a non-ending. This book is begging
Moira Russell
This feels more than a bit weird, but - my actual (short) review is here. If you want to comment/question/disagree/whatever here, though, that's fine (comments on my blog are off for reasons of privacy). ...more
Anna Kay
Jul 31, 2013 rated it liked it
It's Maggie's Senior Year of high school and she's determined to enjoy herself. But with an extremely creepy new Stepfather who seems to be covered in shadows and may or may not be an illegal magician, Maggie is seriously stressed out. When strange things begin happening and Maggie is drawn into them against her will, can she keep herself and her family safe? Also, just what dangerous secrets have her friends been keeping from her. And is magic really gone from her genes, or is Maggie more speci ...more
David Caldwell
I won a copy on Goodreads Firstreads.

Magic exists.But not in Newworld. Newworld has stomped magic out. They genespliced people so they no longer have the ability to use magic. The army regularly monitors and deals with any outbreak of magic. Newworld is all about science. Let magic stay in Oldworld, Farworld, Southworlds, and the rest of the planet.

But Maggie knows there is something wrong with her new stepdad, Val. He is from Oldworld and can't seem to get Newworld customs. He won't allow tech
Oct 07, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: ya-books
I'm pretty much a die-hard Robin McKinley fan and have been since I was 12. So there's pretty much no question as to whether or not I'll like her book. I did (of course I did!).

This book is pure McKinley. The voice, the world, the characters - all so fun and entertaining. It's the story of Maggie, a 17 year old average teen girl living in a world of science where science is at ward with magic. Of course, Maggie doesn't start off caring about all that. The book opens with her dislike of her new,
Jan 07, 2014 rated it did not like it
I haven't hated anything else by Robin McKinley, but this book was really bad. It's told in first person, which is unfortunate, since the main character is pretty boring. No charisma, no wit, probably even more boring than any real teenager could be. She fell pretty flat. But what was even worse was the made up slang, which was the most annoying made-up slang I have ever had the misfortune to read. And since the book is told from a first person viewpoint, the reader is treated to plenty of it.

Nov 14, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: young-adult, fantasy
I was secretly hoping for something like McKinley's Sunshine, which I liked quite a bit for its somewhat unconventional take (there aren't tons of warm yet sensible, baker-narrated entries in urban fantasy). But instead I got a disjointed world where magic is acknowledged but not allowed amidst mostly modern-day science, and the narrator is a high school girl who abhors her stepfather partially on principle, and partially because she sees these creepy shadows wreathed around him.

Let's just say t
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Born in her mother's hometown of Warren, Ohio, Robin McKinley grew up an only child with a father in the United States Navy. She moved around frequently as a child and read copiously; she credits this background with the inspiration for her stories.

Her passion for reading was one of the most constant things in her childhood, so she began to remember events, places, and time periods by what books

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“Slowly, painfully, I let go. It was like prying my own fingers off the edge of the cliff. And that hurt too-particularly the falling part, and not being sure what was at the bottom.

But I did know. Now was what was at the bottom. I was already there.”
“It's kind of interesting you're driving a car big enough for a wolfhound and a mastiff to get in the back of today," I said.

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"Greyhounds don't take up much room," I said. "They're like dog silhouettes.”
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