A classic high fantasy adventure with moral teachings, the Shadowfell trilogy is a great read, especially for younger readers who adore fantasy!
The land of Alban is ruled by a harsh king and a cruel queen, and all their subjects human and Good Folk (faerie) are subject to cullings if they are suspect of ‘uncanny’ magical abilites or treasonous actions. Neryn, a teen with uncanny abilities, has been fleeing the king’s men for three years by wandering the land with her drunkard father after the rest of her family was killed or tortured. In a ill-fated game of chance, Neryn’s father gambles her away to a mysterious stranger, Flint, and soon after her father dies in a raid. With no one else to turn to, she decides she must go north to a secret place called Shadowfell where the king’s rule is challenged by a group of rebels. Beset by foes, new friends, and dangerous secrets, Neryn attempts a perilous journey while sick, underfed, and learning a bit more about her uncanny powers, that of being a Caller of Good Folk. A rare gift, Callers can persuade the secretive Good Folk to band together with men, and if this gift is properly trained, they can challenge the crown. To master Calling, she must possess 7 virtues and learn from the four Guardians of Alban. But first, she has to reach Shadowfell when she could be betrayed at any moment, possibly by Flint, her mysterious rescuer.
The second tale of Neryn and her journey to be a Caller. The stakes are higher as Neryn must travel to each of the four Guardians before next midsummer, when the rebels and chieftains plan to challenge the king. Neryn and Tali, the rebels’ second-in-command, first determine to visit the Hag of the Isles and then the sleeping Lord of the North. Meanwhile, the rebels are preparing for battle, finding allies, and yet their spy at court has the most dangerous job of all. He’s fallen under suspicion, and the king’s methods are often fatal. The odds seem almost insurmountable, but with hope and teamwork, there is at least a chance.
Neryn still has two more Guardians to learn from before their midsummer battle, and time is running out. When Neryn and Whisper, her Good Folk companion, search for the White Lady, they discover her power waning. Then disaster strikes, and the White Lady is almost entirely wiped out. As Neryn tries to restore the Guardian, another Caller is discovered at court and enthralls the nearby Good Folk. It’s everything Neryn can do to restrain herself from jeopardizing their mission to save these poor souls. Her mission takes a detour to secrete herself at the heart of the conflicts as the king, Caller, and his forces are pitted against the Good Folk. Everything culminates in a final battle that has all hearts on the line and the reader on the edge of his seat.
This has the feeling of an otherworldly classic fairytale, but does not seem in keeping of traditional stories of Fairies/Elves/Seelie/Unseelie. They are all called Good Folk and they are magical people of the land who have had to go into deep hiding to avoid being killed by the despotic king. Neryn herself holds a bit of mystery and perhaps isn’t fleshed out as much as she could be for older readers. It’s all very simple except that the reader is kept just as unaware as Neryn herself is, which might be frustrating when there’s talk of magic tests and such things. Still, it was a good read for those who already like the genre, but I wouldn’t think this would draw very many readers otherwise. My favorite book was actually The Caller, as it finally drew in more interaction with other characters rather than simply being long magical adventures. Readers who like Lloyd Alexander might like this series, despite missing some of the humor.
Note: While at times the violence in this series is very graphic, all other themes are very chaste and subtle.