In the deep heart of the forest, there are places where no light ever shines, where darkness is folded by pale hands and jewel-bright eyes, where the world is ruled by the wicked and kept by the wraiths. This is where the Sprites of the Sihl live.
But Sprites are not born, they are made. On the path to Spritehood, spritelings must first become shades. They do so by binding a shadow: a woodland creature, who guides them through their training. Together, they keep from the light and learn to enchant living things, to bind them, and eventually, to kill them.
Ahraia is a shade who has bound a wolf for a shadow, as strong a shadow as there has ever been. But while her wolf marks her for greatness, Ahraia struggles with the violent ways of her people. Illicit as it is, she would rather be running wild beneath the moons. But a test is coming, and the further she and her shadow wander out of the darkness, the deeper they wander into danger. Ahraia’s time is coming and what awaits her at the end of her test will either make her or kill her . . .
|Author||ebook||487||indie||Fantasy (Dark/High); Coming of Age||June 21st, 2018|
*Many thanks to the author for the free copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.*
Between the Shade and the Shadow has to be one of the more unique fantasy titles I have read. For one, it has Sprites! And secondly, yes, it comes with a straightforward, simple plot in the face of a coming of age story where the protagonist finds herself in front of a difficult choice and an even harder test, but in this case, the saying- in simplicity lies beauty– really rings true. Because the plot really gave room for the other, more important aspects of the book to shine so much brighter… or, maybe in this case, darker!
Ahraia stopped to drink and looked down at her reflection as the wind calmed. The markings on her face and neck showed too now, veins of silver-red seeping across her skin- the markings of the moonlight. She had never seen them so sharply. For a moment, her simmering fear returned. Unnatural. Unwanted. Unwelcome.
Generally, readers can tell when a lot of thought, consideration and imagination has been poured into a book by the author. Coleman, at the end of the book, says how he has been on a writing journey for 15 years and you know what? You can tell! This book is the result of thoughtful consideration and hard work, and this is especially noticeable where the setting and atmosphere come to play by creating that very specific feel and visual. Honestly, at some point, I wished I had a better visual imagination to picture what I was reading because it sounded fantastic!
Ahraia is a Shade, a spriteling, and every shade needs a Shadow. A Shadow can be any woodland creature: a bird, a weasel, a snake. Once a Shade binds a Shadow, they have a mental connection where they can communicate with each other by conveying thoughts.
“The true purpose of a shadow is not to guide the shade- but to make a sprite of her. Our shadows are a measure of us. They choose us as spritelings, when we are weak and naive, grown of soft roots- and they leave us as sprites, hardened and sharp, cut from stone. “
Ahraia surprised her Sprite community, when she binds a wolf as her shadow. It seems to be a sign of power and Ahraia might be in for a future of becoming more than a regular Sprite. A Shade has to undergo a test of sorts, 3 tasks that they must complete in order to become (grownup) Sprites, or face death by the Dae-Mon. This is the way it has always been… And so starts the journey for Ahraia. She discovers truths about the ways of her people that she is not sure she wants to accept and follow. Everything, including her own future and that of her shadow wolf Losna, is hanging in the balance with their lives.
There is an interesting shift of commonly known evil versus good in this book, whereby it’s the light that scars and marks the Shades and the Sprites, and it’s the darkness that they revere and need to give them a safe home. Like with most things, evil through ambitious actions cares not for its medium and Ahraia discovers that the darkness that they call home and safe, also holds within itself a threat.
I quite enjoyed this book. Ahraia’s character is a joy to follow as she grows and finds her true self in the face of danger, death and difficulties. She really needs to grow up quickly and make the right decisions. Just to be clear- this is not a lighthearted read. There is a lot of loss and heartache involved because Sprites are not some soft-at-heart elves. Sprites are violent, cold and calculated, very black and white. And amongst the society that Coleman has created, Ahraia sticks out like a sore thumb.
To be a sprite was to bind, enchant and kill; it was the only way their people managed in this light-strewn world.
Between the Shade and the Shadow is a dark experience in many ways, but one that still manages to capture the fight for what really matters at the heart of it. There wasn’t a moment in this book that felt extra or too much or not enough- it struck the right balance for me as it allowed me to discover, explore and await with anticipation to witness which decisions Ahraia was going to be making. With purposeful writing, brilliant imaginative descriptions and prose, plentiful turns of events and the stakes growing ever so higher the further into the story I got, it was easy to be captivated.