Cover image and summary from Goodreads.com.
Title: A Tale of Light and Shadow
Author: Jacob Gowans
Rating: ★★★★☆ (4 of 5)
Genre / Pages: Fantasy / 400
Summary: Enter Atolas, a world where swords and daggers both extend life and end it, where magic is feared by all but a few, and where feuds and friendships influence kingdoms and courtships. Henry and Isabelle have secretly sworn to marry despite his lowly station. Though Henry is but a carpenter, his devotion drives him to commit an unthinkable act that may cost both of them their lives. At the same time, a secret, dark prophecy has set in motion events that will affect not only them, but the thrones of rulers throughout all of Atolas, threatening to eclipse the world in shadow. But all is not lost while hope remains in the guise of an unlikely hero and the strength of friendship.
Cover Art Expectations: This is one of the new sections I’ve started adding to my reviews, and I’m loving it! Let’s be real here, everybody judges a book by it’s cover. You kinda have to, because there are so many books to choose from, you have to quickly narrow down choices somehow. There are certain expectations one gathers based on covers. Mine were the following:
- Sweet Romance novel (Kinda true, kinda not, I’ll explain later.)
- Medieval fantasy (Yup, this one’s true, for sure)
- Old, Patricia Wrede style, writing (No, not really)
Overall, it’s a simple, pretty, cover that brings to mind epics such as the Princess Bride. I did read on the author’s website, that he was very opposed to these new covers that were marketing his books as a romance, but, in all honesty, I think it’s a pretty accurate representation of the book’s content. Cover art rating: ★★★★☆ (4 of 5)
My Review: A quick shoutout to my friend Jonah for recommending that I read this book – thank you! Little bit of a tangent here, but I love reading books on the recommendations of my friends, because then you have a built-in fellow reader with whom to discuss the book once you’ve finished it! It’s always a bit disappointing when you read a book that you love and then don’t have anyone with whom to discuss it. So thank you to all my awesome bookish friends, be you people I know in real life, or my fellow book bloggers. :)
From the very first chapter, this epic fantasy enchanted me, intrigued me, and pulled me into the world. The rest of the book didn’t disappoint – I loved it! It was the author’s first written book, and that is noticeable at times, but I always cut debuts a little bit of extra slack. (Not his first published book, but a book that he wrote when he was 18, and published later). I really wish that this book had explored the magic and magical creatures aspect of the world more. It was referenced and alluded to multiple times, but was never actually fleshed out, which disappointed me a bit. The magic was built up to be important, used when needed, and then brushed aside to avoid having to dedicate time to addressing it. My guess is that the author decided to wait till the second book to address it (I am SUPER excited to read the second book, btw). Aside from the magic thing, I think the author did an excellent job of world, plot, and character building. It was a thoroughly enjoyable adventure. I also really liked that the story was being told by a storyteller, that was a fun aspect.
Hero / Heroine: Henry: The youngest master carpenter around, and in love with a fallen nobleman’s daughter, Henry’s life isn’t very easy. However, he is a fantastic and realistic character, and one that I think you will thoroughly enjoy reading about. One of my favorite aspects about his character is that he isn’t a great warrior, he doesn’t have much combat training, and he’s not the first fictional character I’d call up if I had been kidnapped by an evil tyrant. But,”Life [had] taught [Isabelle] that Henry could protect her without using a sword.” I found that to be a very refreshing take on the lead in medieval fantasy such as this one. Henry may not be a natural leader, or skilled in swordplay, but he is incredibly brave and loyal – and I think that counts for an awful lot.
Isabelle: Fiesty is a good word to describe her. She’s kind, brave, and ready to stand up for herself and her friends. She’s more than just the love interest, which is great, because characters that exist only to be love interests are always boring. I don’t feel like I got to know her as well as I would have liked, due to certain circumstances, but what I did learn about her, I really loved. She was complex, flawed, and incredibly compassionate and courageous. What’s not to love?
Plot: Tale is a romance in the same way that The Princess Bride is a romance – there’s plenty of adventure, action, and intrigue, but it all exists for the purpose of advancing the romantic plot. In fact, the more I think about it, the more Tale does remind me of The Princess Bride, in the very best of ways. The only thing I really disliked about this book, was the ending. Due to the events of the last 5% of the book, it kinda felt like nothing ended up being accomplished by the characters at all. I think that’s something that comes with the debut novel part, though… The author just didn’t have the pacing or plotting quite mastered yet. Aside from that, I really enjoyed the plot. The adventure was fun and unpredictable, the characters were well developed, enjoyable, and realistic, the brewing war and political subterfuge was intriguing, and the betrayals were unexpected but believable. Honestly, I think one of my favorite aspects of the novel was the character dynamics – they were unlike any other band of unlikely traveling companions I’ve ever read about, and it was really fun.
Content Advisory: Some violence, captivity, torture, execution, and death (both in battle and at home). Mentions and threats of sex slavery. A teenage girl is sold into sex slavery. Alcoholism and drunkenness. Intense sequences of father-daughter domestic violence. Nothing sexually explicit or graphically violent.
Raising Awareness: I’ve discovered that you can learn very important things from every book you read, so I will start highlighting one of those things in this section of my reviews. The rising action of this book is when a teenage girl is sold into sex slavery. It’s very easy to read this book, be horrified by the idea of sex slavery, and then feel comforted to remember that we abolished slavery 150 years ago. See how civilized and humane we are? Slavery is all gone now! Um, no. No, it’s definitely not. In fact, there are more slaves in the world today than ever before in human history. These are labor (mining, sweat shops, etc) and sex (Brothels, massage parlors, trafficking rings, etc) slaves . But that’s in the third world countries, right? Sorry, but no. I live in Dallas, Texas. Houston, Texas, USA is 4 hours away from me. Houston is the number one sex trafficking hub in the entire country. This is in your neighborhood, your strip mall, your workplace. It’s everywhere. Check out Traffick911 and the 8 Days film for more information, and to see how you can help. #AwarenessISkey #SlaveryStillExists #ThisEndsNow
To Sum it Up: 400 pages may seem long, but I read this book in almost no time at all! I could hardly put it down. If you like The Princess Bride story feel, quirky characters, and crazy adventures, then A Tale of Light and Shadow is the book for you! I loved it and I bet you will, too. :) I highly recommend this book to readers ages 13 and up.