Dissecting The Cover:
I might actually like this cover if not for the oddly fancifully-dressed young lady right smack dab in the center of it. I mean, WTF? At no point in this book is Rory super dressed up. (She's also not a brunette.) So I don't get the fancy girl at all. Or the birds. Or the equally inappropriately attired blond (or is she a redhead? or is it that hideous ombre which I blame Pinterest for?) on the back cover.
I imagine the meetings for this cover design (and most YA covers in general) went a little something like this:
"Quick! Get me a teen, a fancy gown, and some random something that will appear equal parts innocuous and ominous!"
I do like the font and the color of the title though. And I like the cloudy, there's a storm a-brewin' background. If only they had stopped there.
Rory Miller was taking a shortcut home from school when she was attacked.
She would've been killed like the rest of Steven Nell's victims, but she managed to get away.
And so did Steven Nell.
With Rory alive and a killer on the loose, the FBI is afraid he'll come back for her. So they place Rory, her father, and her sister Darcy in witness protection, sending them to the remote island of Juniper Landing, where everything, from the homes to the people, seems a little too perfect.
Rory and Darcy are immediately befriended by a mysterious group of locals and soon enough their schedules are filled with bonfires and parties. But while the carefree vibe of the island helps with Rory's anxieties, she still can't shake the memory of her terrifying ordeal.
Then the disappearances start.
And Rory is convinced Steven Nell has found her once again.
Is it merely coincidence? Or is Nell back to finish the job?
And is that even Rory's biggest problem? Because the beautiful island of Juniper Landing is holding a dark secret of its own.
Here's What I Think:
In a way I feel slightly cheated by this book. Based on the inside jacket cover blurb, I thought Shadowlands would be an on-the-lam, cat-and-mouse, psycho-killer-stops-at-nothing-to-get-the-one-that-got-away type of book.
And while it is partly that, I felt like the main focus was really the island Rory and her family are relocated to, and the weird and mysterious shizz that immediately starts going down once they arrive.
Which isn't that big of a deal. I mean, I like mysterious islands. I watched Lost (until it got all tedious.)
But because of the blurby, false advertising, coupled with the fact that I knew this story would be spread out over three books, I felt like the beginning was a little rushed.
In a way, I guess that's my own fault. I just assumed that the build up of Rory being preyed upon would make up the bulk of the book. But within the first few chapters, Rory's attacked, gets away, the FBI is called, Steven Nell evades capture, and Rory and her family are sent to live elsewhere under semi-assumed names. It's all just a little too much at once.
And, unfortunately, this was the first of many problems I had with this book. And I HATE saying that because I heart Kate Brian. But Shadowlands and I just didn't seem to click.
For starters, I never really connected with Rory. I mean, sure, I felt bad for her. She just went through this terrible, traumatic event, she's forced to leave her home and everything familiar for some unknown location, AND she's still being pursued by some whackjob.
I get it. That majorly sucks. However, it's no excuse to abandon any kind of a personality. And I felt like Rory didn't really have one. Her character just fell flat for me.
In fact, most of the characters seemed one-dimensional. I found that I really didn't care what happened to any of them, I gave less than a shit about their well being, and whenever they seemed to be in perilous danger, I might have actually stifled a yawn.
Which is complete madness because normally Kate Brian is a wiz at character development. Unfortunately, the characters of Shadowlands seemed to be suffering from a terrible case of the blahs though. (Except Olive. She was by far the most likable. I mean, she plays guitar, hates running, and dresses like a vaguely emo Claudia Kishi! Get me a "wild" BFF charm necklace that I can bestow upon her STAT!)
Another problemo I had with this book was its Big Bad. Or rather how the seemingly incompetent FBI "handled" him. Which was incompetently.
I mean, I'm pretty sure if a serial killer was fo sho after you, the FBI wouldn't merely shove you in an SUV and have you rely solely on GPS technology to get you where you're supposed to go.
I'm fairly certain you would be escorted in some fashion to your new location by someone that actually works for the bureau. I would really hope they wouldn't leave something that important up to your dumb ass.
I'm also fairly certain they wouldn't let you keep your first names and simply change your last name. I mean, this "Steven Nell" fellow is supposed to be some kind of criminal genius, having killed at least 14 people and evading the law for years, but he's suddenly gonna get tripped up because you changed your last name from Miller to Thayer?!? Even though you're STILL a family of three comprised of a father named Nick and his two daughters, Rory and Darcy?!? WHAT?!?! No! Just..... no.
So, ok, technically my problem was more with the dum-dum FBI rather than with Steven Nell.
Really as far as Big Bads go, he's not too shabby. In fact, he practically seemed plucked right out of an episode of Criminal Minds. Which is to say, he's a total creep.
Most of the chapters are told from Rory's POV, but a few give us insight into the completely twisted, disturbo mind of Steven Nell. His chapters made me super uncomfortable. It's like that feeling you get when someone's breathing down the back of your neck. *shudders in revulsion*
Ok, so, by this point in the review you're probably thinking, "Damn, bitch! What did you like about this book? According to the Scale of Judgment you gave it a solid 3, which makes it Mildly Amusing. So where's the Mildly Amusing part?!"
Well, calm down, y'all! I'm getting to it.
What I DID like about Shadowlands is that it involved a mystery! I LOVE mysteries! I get super excited when a mystery starts to unravel. I love rustling up suspects, dodging red herrings, examining clues, identifying shady behavior! It gives me such a rush!
However, this mystery was kind of an unsolvable one. Or maybe I'm just an idiot. Either way, I didn't figure out the M. Night Shyamalan-ian twist at the end. I knew something was rotten in Denmark though, so I put on my Nancy Drew cap and got all thinky on this bitch!
Which, sadly, yielded zero results.
I like to think that's not my fault though.
I felt like the book was layered in too much random weirdness: point A not really connecting to point B, and point B only connecting to point C by a very thin, loose thread.
I think Kate Brian layered this book with too many twists and turns but didn't provide the reader with enough lil' bread crumbs to actually figure out what the fuck was going on.
But even though Shadowlands and I didn't totally hit it off, that doesn't mean I'm giving up on this trilogy.
Now that I know what's going on in Juniper Landing (more or less,) I'm hoping all the twists and turns and random weirdness of the first book will be explained more succinctly in the sequel, HereAfter. (Available October 1st!)
Maybe I can get some of my mystery-solver street cred back. ;)
There really aren't any swoony times to be had in this book. And rightfully so. I mean, something super traumatic just happened to Rory. So, of course, she's still raw and vulnerable and scared out of her mind.
Not that that keeps her from noticing the boys Juniper Landing has to offer. I mean, she's still a teenage girl after all.
There's the dark-haired, cocky, popular pretty boy, Joaquin. He immediately takes a liking to Rory even though she totally throws 'I'm just not that into you' vibes his way.
But Darcy is seriously (and somewhat embarrassingly) smitten with him.
Rory's more into Tristan, the mysterious, blond, man-of-few-words type.
Nothing really comes of either coupling, but hey, it is a trilogy. Maybe some major makeout seshes and copious swoony times are on the horizon!
Even though Juniper Landing seems seriously shady, I couldn't help but be taken in by the descriptions of the beachy atmosphere!
Rory and Darcy have a pretty sweet set up; a cozy cottage complete with window seat, winding staircase, floor to ceiling windows and easy access to the beach! I mean, if ya gotta hide out from a psychotic serial killer, it might as well be in a quaint, postcard-perfect beach town, am I right?
From the jump there seems to be something majorly up with the folks of Juniper Landing. I mean, we are almost at Stepford levels of bizarre here. And even with the hundreds of thousands of hours I've logged solving mysteries alongside Nancy Drew, Veronica Mars, Isabel Spellman, and Jessica Fletcher, I couldn't make heads nor tails of what exactly the eff was going on.
So the ending was quite a shock for me.
You bested me this time, Kate Brian, but I'm not willing to give up my magnifying glass just yet. You can bet your bottom dollar that I'll be sharpening my skills before the sequel comes out. ;)
I know cliffhangers aren't for everyone. I know there are some people that reach the end, see the cliffhanger, and immediately start f-bombing it up while stomping around their house for like, a week, grumbling under their breath and throwing their hands in the air.
I'm the opposite. I LOVE cliffhangers!
In fact, if I know going in that I'm reading a trilogy or a series, I kinda just expect them.
I like to refer to this as The Alias Effect. If you watched the show (and why wouldn't you? It was AWESOME!) you know why.
If you didn't watch it (I don't know that we can be friends anymore. Especially if you're not at least willing to Netflix that shizz.) Alias pretty much couldn't end an episode with anything other than a cliffhanger. I don't care if it was the third episode of the season or the season finale; they were gonna leave you heart-pounding, mind-blown with maybe a little bit of pee in your pants. Because, with an ending like that, you gotta stick around and see what happens next! JJ Abrams was super crafty like that.
And even though I felt like I was slogging through some portions of this book, Kate Brian reeled me back in with that ending. Guess homegirl knows a thing or two about The Alias Effect herself.
If You Liked That, Try This:
Private by Kate Brian.
The Scale of Judgment Says:
A little more mystery, a little less "mysterious island," please.