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Rising Shadows #3

Defying Shadows

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One choice can define your future.
At first, Sarah’s return to twelfth century Serimone is as wonderful as she could have hoped—reconnecting with Will and celebrating the union of her two friends—but things quickly fall to pieces when she uncovers something that could unsettle the new regime. Before she can share this information, Sarah is forcibly whisked away by the one man she thought she’d never see again: Damien Lisandro, the friend who betrayed her and the traitor who was supposed to spend his life behind bars. Even more unsettling is the revelation that the mystery they had solved is far from over as a dead man comes back to life with the intent of corrupting the future.
In Will's desperate attempts to find Sarah, he uncovers the mystery that she left behind, putting into question the kingdom’s past and the motives of its current king. But the madman whose mission it is to change history will stop at nothing until he succeeds, and a team of ragtag time travelers are the only ones left who can stop him.
As this exciting chapter of her life nears its end, Sarah must finally choose between Serimone and her world--between the easy choice and the right one.

350 pages, Paperback

First published May 1, 2016

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About the author

Ashley Townsend

3 books139 followers
Ashley is a young twenty-something author at Ink Smith Publishing and has been spinning tales since she discovered that her wild imagination could make a career. She is a native to bookstores, coffee shops, the beach, and San Diego, CA. She also has an unexplainable aversion to clowns and describes outlines as a “proverbial noose.” Check out the Rising Shadows trilogy everywhere books are sold: Rising Shadows, Chasing Shadows, & Defying Shadows. Become a fan on Goodreads and follow her quirkiness at ashley-townsend.com.
Twitter: @TownsendTales
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ashleytownse...
Amazon: http://amzn.to/1JHIL9R

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Profile Image for Deborah O'Carroll.
488 reviews99 followers
August 29, 2016
(Review also posted on The Road of a Writer: https://deborahocarroll.wordpress.com...)

"I laughed, I cried . . . it moved me, Bob."*

*(Sorry to go all VeggieTales on you but the quote seemed appropriate. Ahem.)

THIS BOOK, PEOPLE. This review is going to be one of the hardest ones I've ever written, because almost all of my favorite things about it are in major spoiler territory... But part of the fun is going on this plot-twisty journey of discovery yourself when you read the book, so I'll try to keep my review spoiler-free! :)

The third book in the Rising Shadows trilogy by Ashley Townsend, Defying Shadows, finally wraps up the adventures of Sarah and her friends in Serimone—and what a wrap-up! *flailing*

This book had EVERYTHING. List, because lists are grand:
+ time travel and everything timey-wimey involved with that
+ historical fiction of a medieval variety
+ contemporary parts
+ sweet adorable romance
+ threads of Christian faith
+ a retelling-of-sorts involving Robin Hood (!!!)
+ mystery and intrigue
+ all sorts of different character arcs
+ swashbuckling action
+ heartfelt parts
+ humor/banter/character relationships that are so fun to read
+ even a dash of nautical adventure!
It just has EVERYTHING, I tell you.

(I also feel like this series would make a stunningly gorgeous awesome movie or TV show. XD Somebody get on that.)

I loved the time-travel stuff—it was BRILLIANT and made me happy. :) Just... everything time related was so cool. In the first two, it's basically a "portal" method to get Sarah into Serimone, and doesn't do much beyond that, which was fine. BUT IN THIS ONE IT WAS SO INVOLVED. So much timey-wimey going on. And I loved that. :D

There were so many revelations and plot twists, which I so enjoyed! I guessed a few of them, but if anything that made me love it even MORE, simply because I was so excited to see them unfold the way I wanted them to. :D It blew my mind SO. MANY. TIMES. and made me so excited and I just loooooved that.

The romance element was so sweet. Really enjoyed it! It wasn't the main focus of the plot, so there was a lot of other stuff going on, but it weaved in really well. Will and Sarah are ADORBZ and PERFECT together and I don't know if I ever shipped anyone so hard. XD ...Okay, I was really shipping a certain other spoilery side-couple there too. ;) SO MUCH SPOILERS BUT SO WONDERFUL. <3

And the retelling/Robin Hood stuff!!! It made me so happy and it was so unique and awesome, loose but still noticeable, and I just... ksldkjfalsdkjf I CANNOT BE COHERENT UPON THIS SUBJECT. I will try though. ;) Okay, so I ADORED how the retelling stuff came out in this book. Between that and the characters and the time stuff, those three totally made Defying Shadows AMAZING for me!!! <3 *hugs book* It was completely brilliant how the Robin Hood things were slipped in, kind of subtly sometimes, recognizable in their way and yet with such NEW twists. AWK IT WAS AMAZING. *flailing around* It's killing me not to expound upon the subject because I loved SO many particular aspects of it, but I don't want to give anything away. Needless to say, it's AWESOME and everyone must read it just for the Robin Hood ish elements. Because Robin Hood things are awesome and that is all that needs to be said upon the subject. *nods* (BUT TWISTS THOUGH.)

Defying Shadows was definitely a feelsy book—the emotions run deep, y'all! It made me laugh and smile and get excited and get angry (in a good way) and feel torn and left me teary-eyed a couple times, which isn't all that common for this here reader... It made my feels a bit of a mess (who am I kidding—a LARGE MESS AWK) and I normally get annoyed at books for doing that but this one was just right and I didn't actually mind. ^_^ (For those who don't know me: this is a MAJOR deal. Props to the author for pulling it off.)

I enjoyed the first two books (Rising Shadows and Chasing Shadows), but this one I really LOVED. I was daunted by its size, but while I was reading it, it didn't seem long at all—it was just the right size and needed that length because of ALL the things that happen. I would also say the writing is AMAZING in this book. It's improved a lot since the first two. (They were by no means bad! But with this one, the writing has grown by leaps and bounds!) It's exciting to watch an author grow from book to book, and I'd say Ashley Townsend has definitely come into her own. This book was so well written. Huge thumbs-up on all of that!

Do I have any complaints? Honestly, hardly any. I had a couple minor nitpicks along the way about characters doing things where I was like "WHYYYY, GUYS??" or coming to odd-seeming conclusions, but otherwise the book held together and was amazing on the whole. :) I am very much on the fence with mixed feelings over the epilogue, though... There's a part of me that likes it because it was a brilliant epilogue, but there's another part which would have rather had it end on the simply INCREDIBLE high note of the actual ending of the final chapter! <3 The epilogue was bittersweet (to me at least) which is not my sort of cup of tea? But I'm probably weird and most people will probably love it, so. :P

Okay, character time. ;) I loved being back with these characters in Serimone—it was like coming home. <3

+ Will is of course AWESOME and my favoritest of all. <333 His story-arc was the best. I so enjoyed reading about him in this book! I think he came really far and he's just... I HAVEN'T WORDS. He's just such a great guy, heroic and a little dark/sad sometimes, but still learning things, and he'll do anything for those he loves, and just... WILL. Will Will Will. That is all. <3
+ Sarah really grew on me in this one! She actually kind of annoyed me at times in the first two? But this time I liked her! I actually felt a lot of the things she was feeling, which is different for me. XD She's a good heroine. *thumbs up*
+ Damien is... ACK MY FEELS FOR DAMIEN. In Chasing Shadows, he was funny and charming and all, but I spent so much time while I was reading that one, worrying that Sarah would fall for him instead of Will, so that Damien was very much the unwanted-corner-of-the-love-triangle/villain, for me. I didn't totally dislike him, because his charm DID get to me and sometimes I felt bad for him, but I didn't see what Sarah saw in him, because Will was so much more awesome. ;) But in Defying Shadows, Damien had a lot of focus and character stuff involved, AND THE AUTHOR MADE ME LOVE HIM TOO. I'm super impressed. I went from hating this guy to feeling bad for him to really liking him, and his whole plot in this story just... salskdjldkj. I have many feelings that I can't sort out. I will say nothing more because oh-so-many-spoilers, but wow. (And the yew tree! UGH MY FEELS. D:) But his story-arc was really well done and I liked how it fit in with the rest of the story, and I'm okay. Really. (FEELS THOUGH.)
+ And then there's a character whose very NAME is a spoiler, so she shall remain nameless, but her story-arc was AMAZING and I loved it to pieces, which really surprised me. O_O This coming from a character I loathed for awhile but came to really like and just... I'm speechless. The talent from this author just blows me away. Not to mention how many times my mind was blown about revelations concerning this character. Speaking of mind-blowing...
+ Robert and Richard were both awesome, and my favorites. (I keep saying that, I know. WELL THEY'RE ALL MY FAVORITES.) I absolutely LOVED their roles in the story!! *bouncing up and down* You will have to read it, but suffice it to say they are awesome and the best and that is all. :D
+ And Karen! She's great. And I LOVED her friendship with Sarah, not to mention Karen and Seth together—just so much yes. Also Will's friendship with Seth and Robert and Richard—I loved seeing those relationships! So much awesome bonding in this book. ^_^
+ We got new characters too, like Merek, who was cool. He's one of those instantly likeable characters, and all wise and everything too. He wasn't in it for very long but I really liked him. He made me think of a Friar Tuck type character. :D
+ Obviously I abhor the villains who shall also remain nameless and are all horrible which means they're doing their job. XD They were just UGH. Really nefarious and well-written.

And just... SO MUCH STUFF GOING ON. I'm so amazed at how many character plot threads managed to fit in this story! So many characters had so much going on and it managed to weave together and just wow. Call me impressed.

ANYWAY. This review has gone on quite long enough (though I didn't even flail and squeal over all the spoilery parts I loved! AWK! <3) so I shall wrap up now. In my defense, the book is long, so there's a lot to talk about. ;)

Overall, Defying Shadows is an extremely enjoyable time-travel Christian YA romance with a dash of Robin Hood retelling, marvelous writing, lovable characters with deep story-arcs, many feels, and... overall just a lot of fun. It did a splendid job of tying up the threads of the whole series and just... it made me really happy. ^_^

I highly recommend trying Defying Shadows out! (Though you might want to read the first two books, Rising Shadows and Chasing Shadows, first so that you understand things... But hold out till the end, because Defying Shadows is the absolute BEST! <3)

(Disclaimer and thanks: I was a beta-reader for this book before its publication, so I received a free copy of it for that, and the opinions in this review are entirely my own. Many thanks to the author, the lovely Ashley Townsend, for the chance to go on this journey through Serimone with Will and Sarah and the gang! I had a blast and I think a part of my heart will remain with them. ^_^)
Profile Image for Ashley Townsend.
Author 3 books139 followers
July 18, 2015
I know, I know. I'm not supposed to rate my own books. But this is honestly the type of book I love. I fangirl over my characters every time I sit down to write! ^_^
Profile Image for Dominique.
337 reviews59 followers
October 17, 2016
What the book is about:

One choice can define your future.
At first, Sarah’s return to twelfth century Serimone is as wonderful as she could have hoped—reconnecting with Will and celebrating the union of her two friends—but things quickly fall to pieces when she uncovers something that could unsettle the new regime. Before she can share this information, Sarah is forcibly whisked away by the one man she thought she’d never see again: Damien Lisandro, the friend who betrayed her and the traitor who was supposed to spend his life behind bars. Even more unsettling is the revelation that the mystery they had solved is far from over as a dead man comes back to life with the intent of corrupting the future.
In Will's desperate attempts to find Sarah, he uncovers the mystery that she left behind, putting into question the kingdom’s past and the motives of its current king. But the madman whose mission it is to change history will stop at nothing until he succeeds, and a team of ragtag time travelers are the only ones left who can stop him.
As this exciting chapter of her life nears its end, Sarah must finally choose between Serimone and her world--between the easy choice and the right one.

My Review:

This review is going to be full of spoilers and feels, if you haven't read this book(or the first two books in this series) what are you doing? GO READ THEM!

But I will have a little spoiler free review for you ;)

This book is just so beautiful, it's an amazing ending to this trilogy<3
There were so many plot twists that I didn't see coming, it was amazing X)
You will laugh and cry with these characters, and love every minute of it :)

So that's all I can really say without spoiling it, so continue at your own risk ;)

Profile Image for Tricia Mingerink.
Author 11 books355 followers
June 24, 2018
There aren't enough stars to rate this book! It is amazing!

It took me far too long to get around to reading this book, but it turns out I read it right when I needed to. This book is all about goodbyes and living life and moving on and that's just what I needed.

The first part of the book starts of slow. It is all nice stuff to read about, but the book really doesn't get going until after about 8o to 100 pages in. But then, I couldn't put it down and read it in one day. This book really brings the timey-wimey, crazy time-travel stuff. So good! And I love how the ending resolution isn't the usual answer to two people in love who are separated by time.

The ending doesn't pull the punches. It goes for all the heartaches and heartstrings. Even though I was sure it would have a happy ending, I still teared up at one point.

Seriously, go out and read this series!
Profile Image for Krina Satra (BooksAndBookmarks).
109 reviews109 followers
March 29, 2016
I was chosen to be a beta-reader for this book *cries with joy* by Ashley for an honest review of this installment in her amazing trilogy.


I just completed Defying Shadows and have been having bitter-sweet feelings ever since. I'm so sad that this wonderful series is over and that there won't be any more Sarah or Will or Damien in my life...

As for the review, I cannot possibly say much to criticize Ash's work, however, some plot twists were kinda foreseeable, I enjoyed them nevertheless. The thing I didn't see coming was Damien's fate. I remember how in our previous conversation she had told me that he would play a big part in Book 3 and he is and always will be mine as well as her (I hope I remember correct) favorite character. Naturally, his development throughout the series is admirable. In the end he became the hero I always wished him to be, and even though his dying made my heart wrench badly, I'm glad that he found the true path and did bot deter from it. His love for Sarah is something I always wish I can have. I mean, I do ship Sarah and Will, but Damien! I don't need to say any more. :) I just loved his dynamic.

Will went through major changes as well. I knew he'd be alive after the ship went down, don't know how; just do. His faith being turned around and his life taking a better course made me feel satisfied. After watching him struggle with the concept of God and His love, he finally attained peace. I do however feel angry at him for leaving Damien to be hanged. I know the situation was such and he couldn't possibly have done much, but I wanted him to try and save the man who had given up everything for the woman they both loved..

Sarah, was somewhat of a conflicted mess for the major part of the book. I felt as though her character would not have sit by idly at Jade's place when everything was happening and that she would do something. That aside, she will never cease to amaze me by the strength she holds in herself. Her feelings towards the Jones, Will, Damien, even Jade - seemed so selfless and pure, no matter what they were. She was never one for pretenses.

Demetrius coming in the picture was a bit surprising, and didn't make much sense to me until the end when everything made sense. His involvement with Cadius was something I became wary of. However Cadius himself could not outsmart the monster he had created. I'm glad he saw what he had created and feared because of what he did to his son which in turn resulted in his demise as well as Adrian's.

The tone of the novel seemed a bit slower than Chasing Shadows. The one thing I enjoyed were the different places that the characters visited. Be it the present or the past. I do admit I would have absolutely loved to see Will adjust to the new life, although he did not seemed as surprised by everything that he saw, which was sad because this world is so different from the time he was born. I guess he didn't express his emotions enough..

I was super scared about the whole Robin Hood - Marian thing. I mean, Jade evolved so much in the end, it was hard not to care for her however snarky she be; but I'm so glad she found someone who courted her as she deserved after losing everyone else.

I wanted more interaction between Saran and the Queen, since the way the story was portrayed, they seemed to understand each other very well, despite meeting only twice; that too briefly. Due to the Queen's affections towards Sarah, for a second I thought she wanted her to marry Adrian or something similar.

The epilogue was something that made me weep out a little. Even though I was glad that Sarah and Will had such a wonderful long life together, it felt like a closure of sorts.. She never got to meet Karen again, which was the worst part to understand. I guess I sort of saw it coming, that Will would eventually follow Sarah somehow because of the fact that he had no family left in Serimone. Anyway, it was perfect.
Profile Image for Wilma Monica.
159 reviews7 followers
September 15, 2016
This book was sent to me for 'beta-reading' and thankyou for Ashley for giving me the chance to do so! ^^

I have to be honest!
I hate Ebook.. Hahaha.. I dont read ebook and it's indeed making me the worst reading slump ever. But! I believe I would end this book for over a day or two if I have the physical one, because you know what


and that epilogue... Gah! That was brilliant.
I dont have anything else to say other than I love this book and trully wanted to have the physicall one. Like seriously?? I just finished and miss Will and Sarah and Karen and Damien and Ugh! I cant choose my favorite because they are all!

Brilliant Ashley! BRILLIANT!

PS :This is an honest review from me
7 reviews
September 27, 2017
let me just start off by saying that i am in love with this book! the story is written fantastically and while maintaining a gripping storyline with tons of plot twists (lmao), the book also gives importance to various virtues like friendship, sacrifice and faith in the almighty. the book is narrated by the first person's point of view, and the author has included a quotation before the beginning of each chapter which i think is a lovely special touch to the novel.
the story kept me completely entertained and made me smile and sob, while also making me crave more!
Definitely recommend this beauty to you guys if you're into books with time travel adventures!!
Profile Image for Anne Z..
554 reviews33 followers
September 8, 2016
I laughed and I cried and one day later my heart still cries out!

I was very lost to start, as I have not read the prequels to the book. But after a few pages in, I was hooked.
The book has everything a fan of Young Adult science fiction could hope for. Romance, plot twists, mystery, adventure, joyful and sorrowful moments... I would be very surprised if the book did not bring out some deep emotions within you.
The theme of unconditional love and friendship can be found through out and it affected me deeply while reading (without being cheesy or too much). I am a strong believer that if an author can stir those deep emotions within you she/he deserves high praise. And Ashley Townsend, most certainly does. As you read, you will feel everything the characters are feeling.
Damien, one of the main characters in this book, will be in my mind and heart for a long while. I don't know much about his previous history, for what I understood it was not all very good, but it makes for a great third book.
The time travel side of it is very cleverly written. I personally find only a very few writers can pull off writing on time travel without sounding very tacky or too simplistic. Neither the case here.
The book also has some strong Christian notes. They are skilfully incorporated and bring out the imperfect side of our human nature, making it easier to relate to the characters.
I think Sarah is meant to be the main character, but I will confess she is the one I related to less. Damien takes a much stronger role to me and I absolutely love his character. Jade coming close second. But I will not say more and spoil the fun for others.
All in all, a great read. One I could not recommend enough. The only downside of the book is particular to me, there were a lot of missing links, things I wish I knew but didn't because I have not read the other two.
Profile Image for Nick Cincotta.
51 reviews4 followers
August 2, 2016
I will try to make this review as honest as I can, but realize that I very much have a biased opinion. I cannot say that it is good or not, but I throughly enjoyed it. Ashley's writing has matured since Rising Shadows and has vastly improved since chasing shadows. She maintained her ability to paint vivid pictures through her diction and brought the reader as if they were at Serimone, and her description of the ruins was well written and descriptive. She wrote about specific scenes that brought you there.
Here writing was less choppy and had a clearer voice and focus than in chasing shadows and it was noticeable the direction that she wanted her characters to go.
Ashley did a stellar job of not noticeably foreshadowing upcoming portions of the story. When the scenes occurred it was if you were walking into a wall, well duh. In chasing shadows and rising shadows Ashley foreshadowed many of the events that would happen later in the story and it was more noticeable. Overall it was a book that I thoroughly enjoyed reading every word Ashley had written, I found it hard to the book down and sadly disappointed that the story for these characters had to end. I enjoyed her utilizing her interest in Robin Hood and Maid Marian and how they came about. She added a nice origin story.
I can't get over how much I enjoyed reading Defying Shadows, it is my favorite of the trilogy
Profile Image for Carleigh.
56 reviews22 followers
May 8, 2016
Huge thanks to the wonderful author, Ashley Townsend, for providing me with a copy of Defying Shadows to beta-read!:)

*4.5 stars*

Wow, what a phenomenal finale to an amazing trilogy! It's crazy for me to think about how talented Ashley has gotten at crafting such brilliant novels with captivating plot lines. With each book she writes her characters become more developed, her writing more gripping, and storylines more riveting. It was nearly impossible to get me to put Defying Shadows down, the result of becoming completely enthralled in this enchanting novel where there is adventure on every corner and the OTPS give me way too many feels for my heart to handle. Never before have I read novels like these that combines Christian fiction and time traveling, but I would certainly like to read more! The way Ashley is able to fit so many elements into one book and still make the writing fluid and the story flow is remarkable, making me want more of this magnificent world she has created, and I sincerely hope she writes another book!

Profile Image for C.M..
Author 2 books6 followers
December 20, 2016
This third and final book in the Rising Shadows trilogy does not disappoint. Though the plot could move a touch slowly at times, and I saw almost all the major plot twists coming, it was still a very well written and intricately plotted story.

Sarah seemed a bit stronger than she did in previous books, and I'm glad the author didn't take things too quickly with the romance, nor did she just forget about her family back in the future.

The ending was strong and satisfying, though a touch bittersweet. I will be interested to see what this author writes next.
Profile Image for Sarah Cnossen.
200 reviews17 followers
March 31, 2016
My favorite, by far, of the Chasing Shadows series!! The characters, the story, the adventures, all lead up to a fantastic ending. Well done, Ashley Townsend! well done. :]
Profile Image for Christine Smith.
70 reviews76 followers
September 27, 2016

Can I just leave the review at that? I don’t feel like anything else needs to be said. Okay, fine.

Defying Shadows by Ashley Townsend is the 3rd and final installment of the Rising Shadows trilogy. And what a finale it was! Once I finished the last page, I just had to sit there for a minute so my tornado of emotions could have some quiet time and calm themselves down.

These stories are about Sarah Matthews, a 21st century gal who got swept into the 12th century by accident by some time traveling watches. In the first two books, she landed in a place called Serimone, and made quite a few friends and enemies along the way. And then of course our dear love interest, Will. In this 3rd story, she’s returned to the 12th century for a wedding, only to discover her enemies are back and the future of Serimone could be entirely destroyed.

The story starts out with a timey-wimey bang that totally had me reeling. Just give me ALL the time travel-y things, please and thank you! Unfortunately, once the exciting, wibbly-wobbly prologue is over, the rest of the beginning is sloooow. There were a lot of scenes of just dialogue and normal, every day activities like getting dressed and fixing hair and whatnot that seemed like it could have been cut or broken down into just a sentence or two instead of entire paragraphs. I had a rather hard time getting through the first few chapters. Nothing really…happened. BUT I didn’t mind much because I was so very happy to return to these characters.

All of our beloved characters are back, and it was like being reunited with dear friends. Sweet Sarah, precious Will, spunky Karen, the whole endearing Jones family, and, of course, Damien. Sweet, sweet, loveable, if not slightly deluded, Damien. . . Ahem. There’s also a little gaggle of side character, all of which made me smile. Well, you know, except the villain, to whom I wanted to punch in the face. But that’s normal…right?

What I love about the cast is how real everyone felt. They’re all people, with hopes and dreams and fears and doubts. Their emotions jump from the pages and squeeze your heart until you just want to hug everyone, and wish they were your friends in real life.

The best part about the characters was how they had grown and changed from the first book. With each book, they endure more, grow closer, become braver. The 2nd book especially had some of the best character arcs. And the effects are still there in this story. I can’t stand when a story ignores the character growth that happened in a previous story, and the characters revert back to their original selves. If there’s character growth, I want to see them changed permanently. And Defying Shadows had just that. These characters are much more mature and brave and selfless people than they were in the 1st book. The consistent character growth made me want to high-five the book and give it a gold star.

And, better yet, we get even more character arcs in this one. The characters just keep growing and growing and excuse me while I go cry and hug the book because MY PRECIOUS BABIES. This author is a master at character arcs, let me tell you!

Once we get past the slow beginning, things really start to pick up and the plot thickens. We only thought things were dire in the last book. Haha. HAHAHAHA!

The stakes have upped, and Sarah is thrust into a much deeper plot than she ever imagined. The layers of plot throughout the trilogy were phenomenal! I was blown away with how the plot was layered on thicker from the 1st book to the 2nd. And even more so with the 3rd. Now the plot comes fully revealed, and what you might think is insignificant in one book, plays majorly in this one. Some seeerious plotting by the author must have gone on for this trilogy, because it was amazing seeing the plot grow and grow, one layer at a time, building up upon one another.

Also, the Robin Hood legend is a particular little subplot for these stories and there was one Robin Hood-y reveal in this one that made me squeal and want to jump up and down and huggle the book. But, of course, spoilers. You’ll just have to read it! *cackles* BUT ROBIN HOOD, PEOPLE.

Now, I will say, sometimes the plot got pushed to the background in favor of character relationships. But that’s okay. I may have noticed it more because I tend to read much more plot focused books vs. character centered ones. Sometimes this felt more like a romance story than an adventure, time travel tale. Which, again, isn’t a bad thing! It’s just not something I read much of. But watching Sarah and Will’s relationships develop and grow turned me into a fangirling mess, and I could happily read about these precious babies forever. I mean, a 21st century college freshman and 12th century blacksmith together. ALL THE CUTE.

But, despite the relationships taking center stage, there was still plenty of action to be had. Particularly some timey-wimey stuff I’ve been waiting for since basically BOOK ONE that finally happened and SQUEEEEALS. FUN THINGS. (But I’m trying to not talk too much about the plot so as not to spoil this book and the previous two. *zips lips*)

In addition to loveable characters and a fun plot, the writing is wonderfully done. Ashley Townsend had talent from the beginning, and her skills have only grown. The story was smooth and beautifully written. And the EMOTION. I’d say that’s Townsend’s strong suit. Tearing us readers apart with allll the feels. Only a special few books can make me feel this strongly, and the Rising Shadows trilogy are among them. This finale especially! The author has a way of describing scenes that puts you there and makes you FEEL the scene. I knew precisely what each character felt, and could see it perfectly by the brilliant descriptions of the character movements. I never once questioned what was happening or what I supposed to be seeing, because the descriptions brought it to life so perfectly, most of the time I forgot I was even reading. I felt like I was Sarah or Will or Damien or any of the other characters because the emotions were so strong. My breath quickened, my heart swelled, tears pricked my eyes. LITERALLY ALL THE FEELS. And I think you all know by now how much I loooove when books make me feel. So I was a happy (if not ridiculously emotional) little bean while reading. (No, that is not a contradiction. Fangirls LIKE when books destroy us. I DON’T KNOW WHY.)

I also really liked all the quotes at the beginning of each chapter. It’s so fun when books do that—give us a great quote that’s a little hint as to what the chapter will be about. And let me just applaud Townsend for all these quotes that so PERFECTLY went with each chapter! I can’t imagine how long it took to find each one. o.O

Content Cautions
These are YA books, but I’d say for a bit older YA. There are some heavy themes within.

There’s some mention of a woman who sells herself, though of course it was only mentioned, never ever shown or dwelled on. And told very much in a bad light. We also have a royal scandal from the past mentioned that involved intimacy out of wedlock. At one point there’s a party with some alcohol, though the main characters don’t drink any that I can remember. Someone drops a key into their cleavage. Another time a guy is shirtless and a girl stares at his form.

Since the stakes are so high, there’s definitely violence. Mostly just revealing the after effects of fights, such as bloodied bodies and such.

The big thing is there’s lots of passionate kissing and touching. Nothing beyond kissing, but it’s very…strong kissing. And much of it. So if that’s not your thing, be warned.

This is a Christian book though. So most bad behavior is pictured as just that, immoral behavior. (Except none of the characters had any problem with passionate kisses so, again, that’s up to you whether you’re okay with it or not.) There are some beautiful messages throughout about forgiveness and God’s love and giving our lives over to Him, no matter how messed up our pasts are. Each message never felt forced, but beautifully woven within the story. And yes, totally had me tearing up. *sniff, sniff*

I very highly recommend reading the first books before this one (particularly book 2), but once you do you’re going to be desperately getting your hands on this one. And, trust me, you won’t be disappointed.

This book felt real, the characters were loveable, the plot all manner of fun, and the EMOTIONS. I was honestly a sobbing mess by the end, and I usually don’t do more than shed a tear while reading, if even that. I’m having the hardest time saying goodbye to my beloved characters. But it was a beautiful conclusion to a spectacular trilogy.

Also, there was a horse named Darth Vader in the 12th century. YES. YOU NEED TO READ THE BOOK.

Review originally posted on my blog:
Profile Image for Klancy.
144 reviews
October 16, 2017
Thank you to the author for sending me a copy of her book to review honestly.

Unfortunately, none of the characters really spoke to me. Granted, this could be because I haven’t read the other books in the series, which more than likely hindered my experience because I couldn’t really map out the character development of Sarah or the others. My experience with the characters were based solely on Defying Shadows, with no real previous knowledge of their actions in previous books.

However, the book did provide details on past actions, which I appreciated. Actually, these details were my saving grace reading this book because otherwise I would have been completely lost as to what was happening! But given the details I was, I was able to follow along with the story. And I actually really liked it! Also, Townsend is a master of descriptions. She transported me into another world.

So even though I didn’t feel a connection with the characters, the descriptions and world-building definitely made up for it.
Profile Image for Heidi.
201 reviews9 followers
June 3, 2018
I’m NOT a crier, and I cried MULTIPLE TIMES over this lovely book. It’s sooo good. ❤️ the perfect ending to an epic series! And thanks Ashley for putting up with my yelling at you for what you put these poor characters through, GIF texting ALL THE FEELS, and writing this awesome series! ❤️😘 So proud of you friend! *hugs*
Profile Image for Terri Rand.
37 reviews1 follower
October 16, 2018
I was so excited to finally get to finish the adventures of Sarah and Will and all their friends. Defying Shadows was a terrific ending to a wonderful trilogy. The ending really had me smiling! I thoroughly enjoyed these books and am looking forward to reading more books by Ashley Townsend.
Profile Image for Hannah Enloe.
18 reviews
December 31, 2020
I’m not sure I’ve ever cried so much in sadness and happiness reading a book. It took me three months to read it because I didn’t want it to end! I love Ashley’s writing so much and I can’t wait to read her next book!
Profile Image for Carissa.
83 reviews6 followers
March 19, 2020
An amazing end to the trilogy. Everything was wrapped up, people got their happy endings, and everything is right in Serimone and our world.
Profile Image for Cassie C.
631 reviews60 followers
April 16, 2016
Review to come!

Update 4/15/16:

See more reviews on my blog Novels and Necklaces

I would like to extend a HUGE thank you to Ashley for letting me be a beta-reader for the last book in the Rising Shadows series!! This was the first time I ever was a beta-reader and it was the most amazing experience! To have an author such as Ashley truly listen to her fans and take their opinions and thoughts into consideration was so nice and sweet. Anyway moving on with the review...


The last book in the Rising Shadows was simply amazing! I experienced a whirlwind of emotions while reading, from laughing hysterically to fangirling to gross sobbing. Yeah it wasn't always pretty. But Ashley Townsend has created yet another fantastic addition to this series, and while it is incredibly sad to have this be the end of the series, I am so happy with how everything turned out. I seriously don't know how there can be no more Sarah, Will, or Damien in my life, but that's what re-reading is for!! Ashley showed tremendous growth as an author in this novel, and even though this was an early copy of this book, it is clear how truly gifted she is as an author.


One of the best parts of this book (and series in general) is the characters. Every single character has a special place in my heart, and has grown so much since the first book. Sarah is such a remarkable character. She is brave, strong, and never once loses her faith....even when times get extremely difficult. I did like that Sarah's strong faith played more of a role in this novel as opposed to the last novel. However, Ashley found a nice balance between Sarah's faith and the fantasy elements of the story. Sarah's faith is seamlessly woven into the story, and it just fits. It is never forced on the reader. It is simply a part of who Sarah is, and it's a part that you love about her. Moreover, Sarah truly steps up by fighting for what is right and just. She doesn't back down from those that are threats. Lastly, she was extremely realistic, and that is what made me connect with her even more.

Will is just AMAZING! I have loved him from the very second he graced the pages of the Rising Shadows series, and that love has only grown. This was me every time Will was in this book...


He goes through countless changes in this book, one of which is finally finding peace. I don't want to spoil anything as to how he comes to his revelation, but it is a major turning point in the story! Damien was so swoon-worthy in this book, and there were a couple times he made me melt into a pile of mush. Don't get me wrong, I still hardcore ship Will and Sarah, but Damien will always be my brooding "hero." Just like Will, he goes through many changes. And while I was suspecting all along what Damien's fate would be, I was still gutted. There is a certain scene towards the end that is so beautifully written and touching before something terrible happens, and it left me sobbing and looking like this...


Another wonderful aspect of this novel was the plot and the setting. Ashley has crafted such a wondrous story and world that I never want to leave. In this book though, we get to experience not only the past, but the present and the future. These made for some thrilling moments, and I was so excited to see how every little action from beginning to end made an impact on the final outcome of the story. While this book was a little bit slower than the previous two, it allowed for a slow burn until a heart-stopping ending. The entire epilogue of this book was utterly breathtaking. Beautifully written and the perfect way to end a series, this epilogue made all of the sad events worthwhile. I will say that it did leave me crying a bit, but everything is wrapped up nicely and all questions are answered.

Overall, I would highly recommend this novel if you are a fan of the Rising Shadows series, and if you haven't started the series yet...what are you waiting for?! Prepare for an epic thrill ride that will leave you guessing until the end. There are betrayals waiting around every corner, surprising twists and turns, and a romance for the ages. This book has it all and I can't wait to check out more from Ashley!!


Happy reading :)
Profile Image for Kristina.
30 reviews4 followers
August 3, 2016
Defying Shadows is the story of a young college student, Sarah, who is just about to start her Christmas vacation, when she gets an unexpected visit from her best friend and is suddenly (not for the first time) thrown back in time to the 12th century to the charming medieval kingdom of Serimone.

This book has it all. My most admired thing about this book though is the way each character is so imperfectly human, and how easily I am able to feel and understand each emotion with how well written they are. I felt everything these characters felt. Their joy, sorrow, passion, rage, and absolute heartbreak were with me. Ashley Townsend has such a way with words that she makes sure of it. Throughout this book I never once had to take myself out of it to figure out what was going on. Every turn of events (and there are some great ones) is written so gracefully they never feel forced on the reader. Every character decision is easily understood, even if at the time it is hard to agree with it.

I finished this book late at night, having tears in my eyes for at least the last 5 chapters. I was never able to guess at how it would end, and I am glad of it. Defying Shadows is a beautifully written story of hope, heartbreak, faith, and forgiveness. I ended it feeling like I was saying goodbye to friends, and wanting to plant a yew tree in my backyard.

I was given a copy of Defying Shadows by the author in exchange for an honest review.
33 reviews3 followers
August 31, 2016
I want to thank Ms. Ashley Townsend for sending me a copy of this book.

Defying Shadows is a great book but I didn't really love it.
I like how the author wrote the book but there are also some times when I get distracted. I sometimes feel like there are too much words. Too much description and everything.
I had a hard time reading the first part, I was really confused but I think the questions I had were answered as I continue to read and learn abut the characters more. I like the characters especially Sarah but I feel like she didn't really catch my heart. I like her but she's not enough for me. I want more Sarah and I want to really know her.
I rated this book three out of five stars because I think it's good. There are some parts that I really liked and made me laugh. It was funny and romantic and sad at same time.

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