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The Shadow War

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World War II is raging, and five teens are looking to make a mark. Daniel and Rebeka seek revenge against the Nazis who slaughtered their family; Simone is determined to fight back against the oppressors who ruined her life and corrupted her girlfriend; Phillip aims to prove that he's better than his worst mistakes; and Liam is searching for a way to control the portal to the shadow world he's uncovered, and the monsters that live within it--before the Nazi regime can do the same. When the five meet, and begrudgingly team up, in the forests of Germany, none of them knows what their future might hold.

As they race against time, war, and enemies from both this world and another, Liam, Daniel, Rebeka, Phillip, and Simone know that all they can count on is their own determination and will to survive. With their world turned upside down, and the shadow realm looming ominously large--and threateningly close--the course of history and the very fate of humanity rest in their hands. Still, the most important question remains: Will they be able to save it?

416 pages, Hardcover

First published February 23, 2021

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About the author

Lindsay Smith

45 books439 followers
Lindsay is the author of multiple novels for young adults, including Sekret and A Darkly Beating Heart, as well as the comic series Black Swan. She is the showrunner and lead writer for Serial Box's The Witch Who Came In From the Cold, a Publisher's Weekly Best Book of 2017. Her short stories and comics have appeared in the anthologies A Tyranny of Petticoats, Strange Romance Vol. 3, and Toil & Trouble and on Tor.com. She lives in Washington, DC with her husband and dog.

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5 stars
42 (18%)
4 stars
65 (28%)
3 stars
78 (33%)
2 stars
36 (15%)
1 star
10 (4%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 74 reviews
Profile Image for Lindsay Smith.
Author 45 books439 followers
February 15, 2019
MY NEWEST NOVEL HAS BEEN ANNOUNCED!!! Alchemy of War is about 5 queer AF teens in the forests of Nazi Germany who get more than they bargained for when they harness dark energy from an alternate universe to destroy the Third Reich.

It is super queer. And murderous. And really really queer. Did I mention the murder? So many Nazis die in so many brutal ways.

More info to come as we get closer to Fall 2020. :)
Profile Image for Claude's Bookzone (on hiatus).
1,501 reviews201 followers
March 17, 2021
2.5 Stars


Well that was an interesting sci-fi history mash up!

It was a very diverse cast of characters that banded together to fight against the Nazi regime in this YA novel. I think the concept was quite good but the execution felt a bit disjointed. The story didn't flow particularly well as flashbacks were the main technique for filling in information. That's a good storytelling technique, but I feel they were a bit overused in this instance. I also didn't get enough of a sense of the other world. Overall, this was a good, somewhat intense, story about the battle to stop the Nazis accessing unlimited power to use in their final solution.
Profile Image for Permanently_Booked.
815 reviews55 followers
February 23, 2021
Well this was unique, and I have to say when they compared this to Inglorious Bastards meets Stranger Things I can honestly see it in a sense. I enjoyed the LGBTQ representation of this novel along with the mash-up of historical WWII meets this paranormal, parallel, shadow world that can be harnessed for its evil powers. I was pretty intrigued by the creatures that lurked in this other realm that exists alongside ours. I honestly was constantly looking for the portions that brought these dark beings into our world. They were gloriously grotesque and probably my favorite aspect overall.

There are a lot of POVs and I was managing well until they kept coming. I would have enjoyed this a little more if the POVs stuck with Liam, Daniel and Rebeka. The constant POV switch and the inclusion of some minor side characters later on made it difficult to connect with the characters overall. I did connect the most with Rebeka. I liked her realistic actions and inner struggles. Her love for her brother and personal growth in this hellish world while mastering her own gift made her stand out to me.

I appreciate the twist the author was going for with the historical meets sci-fi meets horror. I do think less would’ve made this a truly enjoyable read for me. There is a lot of potential and I can see readers that enjoy this kind of dark twist devouring this book quickly. For me, though I enjoyed the dark side, I found myself dragging through a lot of the context and trying too hard to find that connection with the characters. This may not have been the read for me, but I thank Penguin Teen for the opportunity to give this read a try for an honest and unbiased review.
Profile Image for Sam.
484 reviews83 followers
Want to read
February 20, 2020
Queer teens using dark forces from another dimension to kill Nazis. That’s going to be a yes please from me
Profile Image for Keeley.
310 reviews53 followers
January 31, 2021
I think fans of Six of Crows would enjoy this story! So I didn’t really get into this story until about 50% of the way through. This story was character driven, rather than plot driven, especially at the beginning. Because there were so many characters we had to weave our way through so many backstories and flashbacks, which left me confused initially. There was also a lot of science talk in the story, which just isn’t for me. However, once I finally figured out who everyone was I started enjoying the story more. I ended up caring for everyone and was hoping for the best for them. The last 50% of this book had me really interested. I was satisfied with the ending, and overall I had a good time reading this book!
Profile Image for ella.
402 reviews39 followers
January 25, 2021
★★★★☆ 3.5/5
thank you to penguinteen and netgallery for the arc!

i absolutely love the idea of this book but unfortunately i feel like the execution fell short. the book strays very little from the blurb; it’s literally just 400 pages of a bunch of people running around killing nazis with little plot or explanation of why exactly there is a giant shadow realm and it’s relevance. where did it come from? why does it exist? how long has it existed? why has nobody discovered it before? i had SO many questions and none of them were answered. once you accept the fact that you’re inevitably going to be confused, this book is a whole lot of fun. the characters, even the side ones, where all well developed. the relationships, apart from maybe one, were also well developed. it took a while to get into, but it was definitely worth the wait.
Profile Image for Kimberly (novelhaus).
129 reviews28 followers
January 26, 2021
3.5/4 stars!

This book is fast-paced, action packed, and full of compelling characters that I thoroughly enjoyed reading about! I am normally a fantasy and sci-fi girl but sometimes I like to dip my toe into the historical fiction waters. This was a little bit of historical fiction, little bit sci-fi, and 100% a solid book.

Tension kept me turning the pages and the whole shadow realm was a good addition to set this apart from the typical world war II era historical fiction I have read.
The characters were all pretty well-rounded and developed. The romance, while a little bit insta-love tropey, was still fun to read and a nice addition.
Over all, happy I read this one!

E-arc was received by Penguin Teen in exchange for an honest review. Thank you Penguin Teen!
Profile Image for Amber.
2,326 reviews324 followers
February 18, 2021
I really truly feel that Lindsay Smith is the only one that can get me to thoroughly enjoy a World War II historical fiction. This is a bit science-heavy at times, but with a character-driven story I did not mind somethings going over my head plot-wise.

I received an ecopy of this book via Netgalley; however, my opinions are my own
Profile Image for Mac (bookshelfpalace).
432 reviews4 followers
February 15, 2021
Thank you PenguinTeen for providing me with an e-arc of the book!

The Shadow War is a Historical Fiction/Fantasy novel that takes place during World War II. It is a multiple POV novel about 6 different people coming together to try and gain control of the Shadow World and win the war.

The cover is what first drew me to this book, but after reading the plot I knew it was a book I wanted to read. I love books that start off with all the characters not knowing each other, but slowly throughout the book they all are thrown together and team up. I have to say I really loved these characters. I loved reading all their POV and I was always excited to learn more about each and every one of them. There were a few nights where I lost sleep because I couldn’t put this book down and just wanted to keep reading to see what the characters would do next. Overall, I did enjoy the book and would definitely recommend it!
Profile Image for Morgan.
147 reviews56 followers
December 23, 2020
3.5/5 Stars

*I received a free ARC of this book from Philomel Books/Penguin Teen in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions expressed are completely my own.*

The Shadow War tells the story of five teenagers—Liam, Daniel, Rebeka, Phillip, and Simone—fighting to make a mark for themselves as World War II rages around them. When the five cross paths in the forests in the heart of Germany, they begrudgingly agree to team up to fight against the Nazi regime, although none of them knows what the future will hold. In a race against time with enemies from their world and a shadow realm looming closer, Liam, Daniel, Rebeka, Phillip, and Simone can only count on their determination and each other if they wish to survive. With the threat of the Nazis gaining a new and dangerous source of power through the dark shadow world looming on the horizon, the fate of the world rests in their hands, but will they be able to save it?

The Plot

The overall storyline of the book was unlike anything that I have ever read. Five teens teaming up to overthrow the Nazi regime? Plus, the inclusion of a dark shadow realm? I can honestly say that I have not read anything like this before. Additionally, having not read a whole lot of historical fiction, I was very intrigued by the combination of historical fiction and fantasy/science fiction that this book was pitched as possessing. Plus featuring a dynamic cast of characters and being pitched as having similar vibes to Stranger Things, one of my favorite tv shows, I was sold! And, for the most part, this book did not disappoint. I really enjoyed the overall story and the idea of there existing a dark shadow world parallel to our own that people can learn to control.

I will say that the plot got kind of confusing for me at some points and was sometimes hard to follow, especially when it revolved around Liam and the shadow world. I would have liked it if there was more background and development surrounding the shadow world and how it was used in the past as well as both Liam, Pitr, and Rebeka’s connections to it. For me there were quite a few loose ends in the story, especially when it came to characters seeming to gain information and know things that they were never told or were present for that could have been better developed . I also kind of felt as though not a whole lot happened plot-wise for some parts of the book, with the characters simply traveling from place to place trying to accomplish a goal which was usually foiled until the big ending scenes.

The Characters

I always adore books set with multiple protagonists and the various group dynamics that occur between the characters when they team up and this book did not disappoint! I really liked the diverse group of characters through whom the story is told, which provided a different lens through which to view the world and the situations occurring around the characters. I loved the various dynamics, friendships, and relationships that were formed amongst the characters, especially between Liam and Daniel, Liam and Phillip (although they had very little page time together), and Daniel and Rebeka. I found the romantic relationships that developed over the course of the novel to be super cute, but they seemed too insta-lovey for me especially since the book itself takes place over the course of a single week. I feel as though these relationships could have been developed more and while I can understand why the various characters were drawn to each other, the basing of their relationships is not super strong for me. I also enjoyed learning about their backgrounds and histories as the story progressed and how we got to know them more. I will say, however, that while we get to know some key events about the protagonists’ pasts, there were quite a few things that I found lacking when it came to fully understanding the entire history of the characters, with the exception of Liam who I believe received the most attention when it came to having a fully fleshed background.

Liam: Sick of always lacking control and being underestimated, Liam finds an unsteady and uncontrollable source of power with his discovery of a dark shadow world that functions as a parallel to his own. Searching for a book that will serve as a way to control the portal to the shadow world he has uncovered and the monsters within it brings Liam to Germany on a quest for mastering the shadow realm… before the Nazis can do the same. Liam was probably my favorite protagonist out of the main five and I feel as though he had one of the strongest storylines. I could understand his desire for power and control (even though I did not always agree with all of his choices), especially when it came to blaming himself for being unable to protect his mother from his alcoholic father. I also found his ability to control the shadow realm to be really interesting and how he used (or abused) his “power” to show a lot about his character. I really enjoyed his relationship with Daniel and his sort of bromance with Phillip (I wish they had more page time together). I do wish that we saw more of his relationship with his mother, however, especially since she was one of the main reasons that he wished to have a sense of control in his life. I just really enjoyed his character and personality overall and his dialogue was hilarious.

Daniel: After losing his family to a Nazi death camp, Daniel is determined to seek vengeance against the Nazis who ruined his and his sister, Rebeka’s, lives and will stop at nothing to get his revenge and to kill every Nazi in his path, even if it means losing himself in the process. While I could understand Daniel’s quest for revenge, he did kind of annoy me at some points, especially when he would purposely seek dangerous situations and completely ignore Rebeka and her worry for him while she was the only family member that he had left (I literally found myself internally screaming at him and his actions for half the book). I did like how he learned by the novel’s end that his life is worth saving and that if he continues down his path, it will never truly end. I was honestly shocked by Daniel’s bravery and brutality and the darkness which blanketed him and his actions. I wish, however, that we saw more of his relationship with Rebeka in the present as well as his family in the past to strengthen the bonds between them.

Rebeka: Possessed with a new sense of intuition that she does not understand, Rebeka is attempting to do anything in her power to keep her brother, Daniel, safe on his quest for vengeance against the Nazis who destroyed their family, trying to save him from the darkness overcoming him before it is too late. I felt so bad for Rebeka throughout the entire book, losing her family and then having Daniel, her only remaining family left constantly seeking revenge and doing things that have the potential to get him killed. I really liked her growth throughout the novel in terms of her view of her “power” as well as her character in general in how she kind of transformed from a scared girl into someone extremely brave and willing to do anything to protect her brother and friends and she really comes into her own.

Phillip: After engineering a tabulation machine for the seemingly right reasons and to prove that he is more than just his family’s name and money and having his intentions used against him when it costs the internship positions of his friends, Phillip is fighting to prove that he is better than his past mistakes… which leads to him volunteering to travel to the heart of Germany to help in the war effort. Although I did like him overall, Phillip was just kind of “eh” for me. I feel as though he did not get as much attention or as many chapters as the other characters, which probably impacted my views of him. I like how he was attempting to do something good and not something that could be used against him (although I do not completely blame him for how things went with his tabulation machine as it is not his fault that it ended up being used against his friends). I enjoyed the relationship that he formed with the other four characters, although I wish that we saw more of his relationship with his family and friends, especially since his family’s name and money is what drove him to attempt to prove himself in the first place.

Simone: Having her life ruined by the Nazi occupiers in Paris and losing her girlfriend, Evangeline, in the process, Simone joins the Free French movement with a wish to save her country and to fight back against the oppressors who have destroyed her entire world. I really liked Simone’s character and seeing the various instances in which her tough façade vanished, and we got to see a softer side of her, especially when it came to her relationships with Evangeline (I really liked them together), Phillip, and Rebeka and I liked her realization towards the novel’s end that she had grown to care for Phillip and Rebeka. I also liked her no-nonsense attitude and how she was always willing to do what was necessary to get things done (although I do wish that we saw her react more emotionally to some of the things occurring around her). Like with the other characters, I wish that we saw more of her relationship with her family and I also kind of wanted to know more about the sort of discrimination she felt as an Algerian living in Paris since this came up a lot.

While there were not a whole lot of them, I would have been interested in knowing more about the side and lesser characters in the novel, especially Pitr and even Evangeline, who receives her own POV chapters towards the end of the novel. When lesser characters were introduced, I feel as though they served only as plot devices for a chapter or two and then were forgotten or killed off when to me it seems as though they could have played a larger role .

Action & Adventure

This book was definitely filled with a lot of action and there was death, a lot of death. The book was pretty fast-paced, with the action driving a lot of the story forward, fitting for the time period in which the story is set and while the novel slowed at some points, I found these points to be a breath of fresh air amidst the high stakes of the overall story. I do wish that the story sometimes slowed down a little bit more around certain events, especially the ending where things seemed to escalate super quickly.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book and it definitely makes me want to read more historical fiction and fantasy/science fiction crossovers in the future.
Profile Image for Diana.
Author 17 books1 follower
April 2, 2021

I loved this book. Gorgeous historical fantasy centering Jewish and Black and queer and Muslim kids saving the world--and each other. Both topical and timeless.
Profile Image for Shelby.
695 reviews3 followers
April 28, 2021
*Thanks to the publisher for sending me an ARC in exchange for my honest review
3.5 stars
THE SHADOW WAR is a high-action historical fantasy following five teenagers on a mission to stop Nazi Germany from coming into possession of a shadow realm that could change the course of the war. The concept sounded so cool and the book really did deliver. First, the characters. There are a variety of different perspectives from each main character and they were pretty easy to follow because each character had a unique voice and personality. There is so much diversity and representation in this book, two LGBTQ couples and main characters from different cultures and countries all coming together to defeat the Nazis. My complaint is that there were lots of different timelines; when one character's perspective would be told, there would be both present and past timelines and while, combined, they developed the character's personality and history, they were dropped at random and didn't have really anything to do with what was happening in the present. I thought the shadow world was really cool but it could have used some development because I was confused on how it works. The pacing is also really high-action but in the beginning I was very lost, so give the book a while to shape up. Overall this was a really interesting take on WWII fiction and I enjoyed it.
Profile Image for Ember.
143 reviews141 followers
March 15, 2021
I was hesitant at first to read a historical sci-fi fantasy with the backdrop of WWII, but I'm happy to say this book blew me out of the water in terms of the handling of fantastical elements mixed with the cruel realities of history. I deeply enjoyed following each of the main characters along on this fight against fascism, slowly unraveling each of their backstories as their relationships developed with each other. Liam and Simone were particularly charming protagonists, and that's not to say that Rebekah, Phillip, and Daniel weren't equally as lovable.

My only qualms are the constant POV switches which were a bit muddled and confusing until you get to understand who is who, and the instalove that I was almost expecting considering most standalones don't have the time to truly flesh out whirlwind romances.

Lindsay Smith crafted a gorgeous narrative full of rich imagery and protagonists who connect with readers so quickly and deeply, and I became so invested that I didn't want this book to end. The Shadow War is one of the many books I've read recently that is solidifying my love for historical fiction, and now I crave even more from this author.
Profile Image for Tamara.
171 reviews35 followers
June 4, 2021
What a mess. I blame this book entirely for my reading slump in May. It's especially disappointing cause the characters were so diverse and interesting but the story itself was extremely rushed, the insta-love got on my nerves, and the whole shadow world conflict seemed completely redundant in a WWII book. The writing was very good in parts, Lindsay Smith can definitely write, but I do wish she had focused on only one set of characters/romance, cause her trying to write a historical supernatural Six of Crows style story just fell completely flat.
Profile Image for Annette.
2,599 reviews118 followers
May 22, 2021
The moment I got this book in my Book Box Club I was very excited! The cover looked amazing, the story sounded very promising and I was quite curious what it would be like to mix Nazi's with monsters. However, for the Book Box Club books we always do this buddy read, which meant that I had to wait to get started. But last Monday it was finally time to dive into this book. Since I didn't wanna take the book with me to my parents, I finished a little early though.

It's hard to pinpoint why this book wasn't as amazing as I had hoped it would be. I really loved the Shadow World for example. I loved the idea of a parallel universe, I loved the idea that of course humans would find a way to destroy that universe and I loved the idea that of course people would find a way to abuse the monsters now living in the shadow realm. I especially loved that this was not so much rooted in fantasy, but in science.

However, I had an issue connecting with the characters and it's hard to pinpoint exactly why. Their backstories are all heartbreaking. They've all suffered in their own way. They've seen things no kids their age should see. They've done things no kids their age should do. But the emotional connection wasn't there. I read what they went through, I read what they endured, I read about all the horrible circumstances, but for some reason I never really felt it.

Just like the book felt really black and white for me. Everyone who was actively fighting against the Nazi's, and only if you could prove you had actually done something significant, was good. Everyone else was just bad. I understand where the anger comes from, but I'm glad that in the Netherlands, especially since Germany is our neighbor, we've reached a point in time where we are willing to understand the power of fear and willing to see people as more than just pro or against. I missed that a little in this book, especially towards the Germans who were trying to help, even if they were not yet ready to take the big risks.

And, last but not least, in this case I don't think it was needed for all the characters to end up with a love interest to get their happy ending...
Profile Image for Leslie Baker.
99 reviews10 followers
February 2, 2021
I want to start by saying a huge thank you to Penguin Teen for sending me a review copy of The Shadow War.
Rating: 3/5 🌟
Author: Lindsay Smith
Publisher: Philomel Books
Release Date: 2/23/21
I really wanted to like this book. Like REALLY bad. Unfortunately that didn’t happen. The characters were flat, and underdeveloped. The only characters I liked were, Rebeka and Evangeline. I really wish Evangeline would have had more chapters. I believe I would have enjoyed it more if she did. Rebeka is precious and I love her. She is very smart and witty. Unfortunately they weren’t enough to make me rate this higher than 3 stars. The plot was interesting but poorly developed. It was also hard to follow at times. There were some time skips , not major, but having a date/time along with them would have helped. I’m not sure if there will be a glossary in the finished version, but I believe it would be helpful. I love historical fiction, it is one of my favorite genres. That’s what drew me to it. Unfortunately The Shadow War did not live up to my expectations at all. There were many times I almost did not finish it. I kept going hoping it would get better sadly it didn’t. I would recommend this for fans of Stranger Things. It definitely gave me those spooky vibes.
Profile Image for Leslie Baker.
99 reviews10 followers
February 2, 2021
I want to start by saying a huge thank you to Penguin Teen for sending me a review copy of The Shadow War.
Rating: 3/5 🌟
Author: Lindsay Smith
Publisher: Philomel Books
Release Date: 2/23/21
I really wanted to like this book. Like REALLY bad. Unfortunately that didn’t happen. The characters were flat, and underdeveloped. The only characters I liked were, Rebeka and Evangeline. I really wish Evangeline would have had more chapters. I believe I would have enjoyed it more if she did. Rebeka is precious and I love her. She is very smart and witty. Unfortunately they weren’t enough to make me rate this higher than 3 stars. The plot was interesting but poorly developed. It was also hard to follow at times. There were some time skips , not major, but having a date/time along with them would have helped. I’m not sure if there will be a glossary in the finished version, but I believe it would be helpful. I love historical fiction, it is one of my favorite genres. That’s what drew me to it. Unfortunately The Shadow War did not live up to my expectations at all. There were many times I almost did not finish it. I kept going hoping it would get better sadly it didn’t. I would recommend this for fans of Stranger Things. It definitely gave me those spooky vibes. I will say the best part of this book was the LGBTQ representation. That is what kept me from rating lower than 3🌟
Profile Image for Cori McCarthy.
123 reviews8 followers
December 30, 2020
First of all, I want to thank Penguinteen for sending me this book through NetGalley!

When I first saw the description of this book, I wasn’t 100% set on if this would be up my alley. In the end, it was a very interesting read full of intriguing characters that are easy to fall in love with. The plot was also very interesting to read, and I loved the description that went into every scene. There was a lot of action-packed scenes, and it was definitely fast-paced! While reading this book, I got some major Stranger Things vibes so if you are a fan of that show, I highly suggest this book for you!

All in all, I think this book just wasn’t for me. It wasn’t my favorite, but I enjoyed reading it! If you love historical fiction, mixed with some amazing romance, and some amazing characters,,‘The Shadow War” is the book for you! Be sure to mark your calendars for February 23, 2021 when this book is released to the world!

Final Rating: 3/5 Stars ⭐️
Profile Image for McKenzie.
92 reviews5 followers
February 21, 2021
This kind of book is not one that I usually pick up, but I am so glad that I had the opportunity to read it. Smith added an extra layer of evil to the Nazis in a way that reminded me of Captain America: The First Avenger. Smith also mastered the found family trope, and found a way to bring together a very unlikely group of people together in order to find a way to help save the world. Smith's storytelling had me hooked and I really appreciated the way that she paid special attention to each of the characters to give them their own arc throughout the story, and enough background information so that the reader could easily connect with them. I wish we had heard more from Evangeline's perspective though, she added a very refreshing take on the story. I truly loved Smith's characters and the relationships they developed along the way.
Profile Image for Marjolein.
693 reviews9 followers
May 24, 2021
I had very high hopes for this book, because the idea sounded amazing, but unfortunately the execution was a bit less satisfying. A bit too much romance for this kind of book, the backdrop of WWII was not what I hoped it would be. It was far to black/white (German = per definition bad, which... I think we're past that by now?) and it just didn't click the way I hoped it would.
Profile Image for Val.
279 reviews53 followers
April 4, 2021
This book hands-down has one of the most original premises I've ever encountered, and I'm surprised not more people are giving it a try. I do believe that adding fantasy/science-fiction elements to historical stories is a really good device to have a new perspective upon the subject.

Let's start with what I enjoyed about it:

⭐️ It is really, REALLY well-written. I'm personally a big fan of flowery, metaphorical and very poetic writing style, and while it was not extreme in this book, it was still reallypleasant to read. The author managed to write absolutely gut-wrenching passages diving into the darkest parts of humanity. While this is YA, it is definitely not for the faint of heart: there's not only violence and gore, but also trauma, grief and pain. The author really did a good job in writing both a sharp narrative never shying away from the truth and a bittersweet tale of loss and love, and all of that with rare bravery.

⭐️ As I mentioned before, the blend of historical fiction and dark fantasy was really interesting. While I would have liked more background and details about the shadow world, it was still well brought into the narrative in a way that didn't disturb the realistic plot, only added more depth and interest to it. The beautiful writing style really helped creating an otherworldly, eerie atmosphere whenever it was brought up, especially when it was connected to the characters' emotions.

⭐️ I usually struggle with books that have multiple points of view, but it was surprisingly easy to follow each character in that case. Each had their own personnality and way of telling the story, and I was especially glad that the different perspectives came together rather quickly as not to delay the main plot from starting.

⭐️ And of course, it's always a pleasure to see LGBTQ+ characters included into a story, especially when it's not modern "coming-out-of-age" fiction. I do love the way it was woven into the plot here, with true respect and care for the characters and their identity.

Truly, this was an almost perfect book, almost dipping into a 4.5 stars rating. However, I do admit there were some tiny details that kept me from giving it more (although it's nothing really problematic and often relies on personal preferences rather than general criticism.)

☁️ While the plot began rather rapidly and progressed at a pleasant pace, I do admit it lacked a tiny bit of dynamism. It's not that it's slow but it's not a very small book, and there's a LOT of build up to an ending that felt a little flat to me. I wish the author had pushed her story even further (even though it's already amazing and shockingly honest) and really gave it more strength and brutality, if that makes sense. I get that the characters were never going to end the war on their own and that doing a little part is already much better than doing nothing, but the general story just lacked a little more dimension to me. I do also believe it suffered from too much flashbacks: while they were extremely well-written and helped building complex characters, they sometimes lingered for a little too long and made me forget about what was happening in the present.

☁️ While I really loved the inclusion of LGBTQ+ characters into the story, I was quite disappointed by the romantic aspect it took very early on. The story is set over three days and the characters manage to find madly in love with each other in that short amount of time. I would have understood mere attraction, but even taking in the fact they're lonely and desperate doesn't give sense to that rushed relationship. Maybe it's just a personal preference, but it's just not believable to me: the fact they share a common reason to fight makes them similiar on some level, but it doesn't explain how they get from strangers to the I-would-literally-die-for-you stage in a couple of days. I was also disappointed in how quickly they get to sex, and I think it should have taken them way more time to give their trust to another person in such an important, intimate way. It just bugged me so much I couldn't feel invested at all in the relationship, and it's a real shame because it had a lot of potential.

☁️ On the same topic, I was completely taken aback by the other relationship in the book . Nothing logical led to that sudden pairing, to the point I literally went back several pages to make sure I hadn't missed anything. I just don't know what else to say, because it was so sudden and confusing I still don't know why and how it happened.

So yes, maybe I'm phrasing this whole review as if the problems outshined the good aspects, but I promise, it's a good book. It's fresh and interesting, and I truly adored how the author didn't try to sugarcoat the horrors of war and fascism, and rather called for accountability. It's a brave novel about despair and hope and the coming-together of broken children with beautiful, heartbreaking stories. If you're willing to overlook some details, it's a very nice read that I would recommend for anyone interested in historical fiction with a twist!

Profile Image for Kym's Open Books.
819 reviews2 followers
February 3, 2021
I liked the lgbtq representation
I liked the historical aspects of the war.
The characters were good but I didn’t connect with any of them.
My biggest problem with the book was the historical mashing with fantasy. I just couldn’t wrap my head around it and it felt off kilter.
I think others will like this but it’s just not for me.
8 reviews
August 8, 2021
I deeply regret wasting my time on this haphazard book is the best I can say for it.
It’s is every genre thrown into one cramped but slow paced book. Sci-Fi, uppity WWII philosophy, teen romance, LGBQT+ plus more themes included but none explored well or originally. The Sci-Fi element was the only aspect which mildly appealed to me, but on closer inspection (as a real world scientist) the rationale is sloppy at best. Continuous opening and closing of rifts between two worlds and the aim is to either permanently open or close the bridge between the worlds because the shadows will give our world power, and it’s all achieved by humming the right frequency? It’s an idea that started well but lazily rushed in detail.

All the characters happen to slot into relationships that fit the sexuality spectrum - nothing wrong with that, but when all the relationships happen in the space of a few days/pages it feels forced. We have a gay couple, a lesbian couple and an interracial couple but none of them feel organic, they were put together by the author for the sake of putting them together to make an all inclusive ensemble. It’s more like teen hormones than any epic love story being told.

Each main character of the book is deeply unlikeable; each is a cocktail of selfish, revengeful, with airs of self righteousness, arrogance and a huge dash of saviour complex. All monotonous and all on a suicide mission where you’re actually rooting for them to exit the book already.

The biggest problem I had with this miss-mash of a story was the typical WWII trope; Germans were bad and the American heroes had to swoop in to save the day. This is precisely why I avoid this genre; very few authors are able to tell the story of the wars without ironically spewing hatred and propaganda themselves. Please, don’t get me wrong, the Nazis did some truly evil things, but the allies were no angels themselves. As a person of colour who’s ancestors were affected by actions of the British government, stories like this which don’t tell a balanced recounting of history really irks me. Credit to the author however, she does touch on racism in America. But this book nonetheless demonises Germans (both Nazis and civilians). At one point there is even a graphic description of a family being eaten alive, small kids included. German allies to the protagonists are also portrayed as bumbling ignorant idiots. The author conveys a deep contempt for a whole group of people, an uncomfortable irony we are forced to endure if we stick with this book. German characters in this book are coloured sub-human, stiff, unworthy of any sympathy, devoid of any relatable traits, even those who try to help Nazi enemies. The archaic narrative persevering into a 21st-century book is disturbing to say the least.

In summary: a book that has everything but says nothing of substance or with depth or of any relevance or importance.

This is not the sort of book anyone can take seriously (even with the magic shadows removed). If this book was described as an ironic comedy B movie it would make more sense than it’s current state.
Profile Image for Beth Joey.
201 reviews23 followers
September 5, 2021
Given how interesting I find WWII history, I really expected to love this book. Especially because I didn't know a lot from the perspective of the civilians living in war torn Europe.

I thought the fantasy element woven through would be an interesting take on war history, but the opportunity there was cheapened by the lack of world-building.

The shadow world was used as nothing more than a weapon to be passed around. If you swapped it out with a rifle or a canon, I don't think the book would have changed much.

There were many opportunities to explore the shadow world and the 'behemoth' that kept being mentioned and when the time came to closing the connection between the two worlds, it just kind of happened with no explanation as to how.

Moving on...

Whilst I do enjoy multiple-POV stories for the different perspectives they offer, in The Shadow War I think it just made the book feel disjointed.

With the POV changing in every chapter, the opportunity to expand on significant moments or delve into how a flashback was relevant to the present was lost.

There were also a few moments where a different POV would reveal something in the story, only for another character's POV to go back and explain how it happened.

It just felt very repetitive at times.

Tuning into a character's internal monologue or reading past events that lead them to the point they're at in the story can be insightful and moving, when done right. I think it was overdone in this case, to the point where I wasn't sure if there was much story to tell once the internal monologues and flashbacks were removed.

My overall view of the story wasn't helped by the fact that the characters themselves weren't likeable. There were moments when they chose to kill or torture people that felt too brutal and as if their actions didn't make them better than the regime they were so adamantly fighting against.

The romances were cute but it felt awfully unrealistic for everyone to have a happily ever after.

It just felt like the author was hoping a mature topic would make the book mature. But the immature characters and the internalised and overly descriptive writing style, plus the happily ever afters, contradicted (and cheapened) the topic, making it all very confusing and disjointed.
Profile Image for Stronach.
81 reviews
April 24, 2023
The first thing that one must accept in this book, is that it is a dark historical fantasy. Meaning, it takes place in WWII and involves a sinister shadow dimension/parallel world that both sides want to access and harness.
The second thing that one must accept in this book, is that it is character driven. We don't learn must about this shadow world beyond the basics. It comes in as a mystery and mostly stays a mystery throughout.

Still with me? Okay.
I really liked this book. We follow five main characters as they go around Europe killing Nazis and going through small individual character arcs.
Liam - a young Princeton grad who seeks control in all aspects of his life (especially since he couldn't protect his mother from his drunken, abusive father), discovers the shadow world, and seeks to stop the Nazi's from gaining its power
Daniel - a Jewish German who has put down the viola and picked up a knife as he seeks total vengeance against those who have torn his family apart and caused such ruin
Rebeka - sister of Daniel, she can see glimpses into the future and tries to use them to protect the only family she has left; she tries to contain her rage, her guilt, her fear and stay strong
Simmone - an Algerian from Paris who worked as a carpenter until she had to leave everything behind to fight for what she believes in, and that includes the girl she loved so much but refused to fight back alongside her
Phillip - a smart young man who joins a near-suicide mission to Europe in order to prove that he's more than the mistake he'd made and to earn his place in the world

This book has multiple POVs from people of different genders, sexualities, nationalities, races, and religions. It does not shy away from the brutal murder of Nazis, and it unapologetically allows its characters to feel anger over their circumstances. There is a simmering undercurrent of boiling rage driving most of these characters forward for a large portion of the book and it's a good change from the "constantly scared" or "holier than thou" POVs I'm used to seeing in YA war fiction. These characters have had terrible things happen, and they are angry about it. They act on it. And in the end, what they're left with is up to them. What they're left with, is a real revenge.
Profile Image for Mike Nemeth.
559 reviews12 followers
June 18, 2021
In "The Shadow War," author Lindsay Smith brings together six young protagonists from vastly different backgrounds as they fight the Nazi occupation of Europe during World War II. Liam is a Princeton graduate student who tampers with frequencies and intellectual dark arts that begin to illuminate Smith's reason for the novel. Phillip is a resident of Tulsa's still reeling Greenwood district and a brilliant researcher bound to develop the base technology for computing. Evangeline belongs to a well-connected family in Paris. Simone is an Algerian Frenchwoman who traded fine carpentry for the Underground. Daniel and Rebeka lost their other family members to the general roundup of Jews in Germany. The two are on the run, but Daniel wants to kill as many Nazis as possible before they kill him. In the midst of this, and somewhat ill-fitting, is a connection to a parallel world that consists of darkness and an insatiable hunger for human blood. Liam has figured out how to create an opening to this realm and draw out that darkness to terrorize his enemies. And Liam figures centrally in the plot, which involves a Nazi plan by a demented scientist to harness the power of the dark realm for the Third Reich. Liam needs to travel into the heart of Axis territory to destroy the Nazi's connection to this realm, and he, by roundabout means, enlists the aid of the other protagonists. The plot meanders a bit as Smith introduces the backstory of each of her characters. She sets up the dark forces as nothing more than death, destruction and unrelenting hunger, just craving an excuse to rip, tear and render human flesh. The text almost reads as if it needs accompanying illustration. By about two-thirds of the way through, Smith reaches her stride and her characters take over. By this time, she's provided ample background on each, giving the reader something to care about. I could have done without the parallel world, but I definitely appreciated the historical romp. It got me thinking about my Jewish father, a child hiding in a small Hungarian village, wondering if and when he'd be snatched up by the Schutzstaffel. The end is highly satisfying.
Profile Image for Sarah Pierce.
157 reviews43 followers
August 25, 2021
Thanks to Penguin Teen for an e-arc of this book.

Okay, this is one of the heavier books I've read, especially in awhile. It's very much a fantasy-sci-fi-historical fiction. It's set during World War II, and thus is filled with murder, torture, death and everything that surrounds World War II.

The cast of characters were easily my favorite part. It was extremely diverse. Including, and I'm probably forgetting at least one. BUT. 4 queer characters, a Black character, characters from Germany, the US, France, Algeria. There were a few Jewish characters obviously. There's mental health representation leaking out of this book, as it should be with everything going on it it. And I loved how all of these different aspects were handled. Lindsay Smith also went on in her acknowledgments about how she got so many people AND places to beta and sensitivity read for her.

The conversations had in this book were so incredibly important, and are important any time a place or group of people are slighted or harmed. Who's fight is it? What's the difference between action and complacency.

At times I did feel like the story and plot were a bit disjointed. The science wasn't always explained very well. And there was a strange mesh of fantasy and sci-fi that got a bit messy. Linsday Smith also throws you right into the book, the first chapters are super fast paced and the rest of the book really does keep up the pace very well. Everything is complex but it's also a quick read. I love fast paced books, but I do think that it would have helped if it slowed down just a bit so things could had been explained to us a little bit better and more clearly.

I don't read a lot of historical fiction but I had A LOT of fun with this book.
Profile Image for Barbara.
13.1k reviews271 followers
September 2, 2021
While I give the author points for taking risks and for featuring two queer romances, this novel set mostly in WWII Germany, bounces readers all over the place in a somewhat disjointed way. There were a few points where I had to stop for a moment to figure out how certain characters were going to connect with others, and then at least one who makes only brief appearances in the story and yet has part of the narrative told from her point of view. This added to the confusion of trying to sort out the characters' connections. Typically, I enjoy tales told from multiple perspectives, but the way they were sewn together left me feeling annoyed. Additionally, I found it hard to believe that two teens had somehow found a way to harness the darkness of another world and use it to combat the Nazis, one of whose leaders also had access to this darkness with its monsters. There is little doubt that the Holocaust was one of the darkest periods in history, but that evil can be laid at the feet of Adolph Hitler and the Nazis themselves without blaming it partially on these dark spirits. The different ways that Jewish siblings Daniel and Rebekah, Liam, Phillip, and Simone meet and combine forces and then are aided in their efforts by someone from Simone's past were interesting but perhaps a bit unlikely as was Rebekah's ability to connect with the dark forces in addition to Liam's control of them. And amid all this, love was blossoming? I don't know. The cynic and practical side of me says there is no way that there'd be time for romance. The plot was interesting, but this one wasn't one of my favorites by this author.
Profile Image for Allison.
26 reviews
March 3, 2021
One of the best books I've read. If you're at all intrigued by the description, I encourage you to travel the journey this book brings you on.

I was hesitant bc I was afraid there'd be unnecessary gore but was pleasantly surprised. It's honestly one of the best books I've ever read. It has a lot of poignant takeaways, and is excellent if straight up nonfiction isn't your thing (like me).

It had just enough fantasy elements to carry me thru, and referenced a lot of things that are historically accurate from the perspective of being there at the time (i.e. Kristallnacht/Night of Broken Glass, the German American Bund, the resistance in occupied Europe), and even things I hadn't known about before, like the Black Sun.

(If you're not familiar with any of these things I reccomend googling them.)

It also has PG-13 friendly romances for a lesbian couple, a gay couple, and a straight inter-racial couple. Yay for thorough representation!

It's a heavier subject matter than what I usually read, but it's worth it. Again, if you're interested at all I highly recommend it.

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