The Shadows Between Us by Tricia Levenseller

by - July 23, 2020

The Shadows Between Us by Tricia Levenseller (2020)

The Shadows Between Us is a YA fantasy with a self-proclaimed enemies to lovers Slytherin romance. I rated it 2/5 stars.

So here. I hyped it up. Then I actually read it. And I hated it. You asked me why? I finally answered.

What is The Shadows Between Us about?

Alessandra is tired of being overlooked, but she has a plan to gain power:
1) Woo the Shadow King.
2) Marry him.
3) Kill him and take his kingdom for herself.
No one knows the extent of the freshly crowned Shadow King’s power. Some say he can command the shadows that swirl around him to do his bidding. Others say they speak to him, whispering the thoughts of his enemies. Regardless, Alessandra knows what she deserves, and she’s going to do everything within her power to get it.
But Alessandra’s not the only one trying to kill the king. As attempts on his life are made, she finds herself trying to keep him alive long enough for him to make her his queen—all while struggling not to lose her heart. After all, who better for a Shadow King than a cunning, villainous queen?

On to the review...

High concept, fun, but about as substantive as a shadow. And I say this as an enemies to lovers villainf*cker stan.

So I asked if you wanted an in-depth explanation of why I hated this book so much and 40 of you said yes. So here... Why is this novel blander than boiled chicken?

Savage review incoming.

Listen, I was soooo excited for this book. I hyped it up to all my friends. I bought it as soon as it was released. But it was so bad. It felt like reading the first draft of a novel. I can't believe I actually finished this book. I kept reading hoping that it would get better, but it didn't.

There is:
1. Barely any worldbuilding. What historical era is this supposed to be set in? What country? What do we know about the world besides the fact that the king has shadow powers and there's civil unrest? Generic world, check.

2. No character development. I kept waiting for Alessandra to have some character growth. Maybe she would finally face consequences for her actions. Maybe she would undergo some great internal turmoil. But there was none of that, even until the very end. I love villains and I love evil protagonists, but if you don't have a character arc then what's the point?

3. Speaking of characters... everyone was so bland. If you give me a tortured Evil Prince then I'm automatically hooked. But even I was bored by Kallias! How is that possible? Like I said: generic.

The only one I liked was our protagonist, Alessandra. She's selfish, bratty and devious. She's meant to be ~suuper clever, as constantly lampshaded by the narration and everyone around her. But she didn't come across as the kind of witty that the author wanted her to be. That is not how you write intelligent characters!! So much of what she did was so stupid. Which is fine, if we weren't constantly reminded about how much of a sassy ambitious Slytherin she is.

4. The plot. What plot? Oh, okay fine, this novel is compulsively readable and I finished it in a day. That's why I initially gave it 2.5 stars. But a lot about it does not make sense. Things are resolved too quickly. The one plot point that I was actually excited about, the one bit of conflict that I knew Alessandra couldn't handle... was resolved in a blink of an eye. By sheer convenience. Not even by her own doing! What!

5. The romance. There were some funny bits (Kallias saying Alessandra is beautiful... but not beautiful enough to tempt him) but overall pretty forgettable. I was not invested at all.

6. The writing style. I'll say it. The writing style felt pretty juvenile. I wished there was more description, more maturity, more everything. And like I said before, it felt so anachronistic. Why is everyone talking like it's the 21st century?

And then Levenseller tries to sprinkle in some sexual positivity and feminism, but instead it sticks out like a sore thumb shoved down your throat.

Alessandra hates her sister because the girl is pious and frankly, dumb. And her sister isn't very nice either. In fact, she criticizes Alessandra for her many failings. At the end, after receiving her letter, Alessandra says
"I'm not a trollop," I announce to the empty room. "I'm a sexually empowered woman, and there is nothing wrong with that."

Okay... okay... remind me what century she's in again? I'm a hardcore feminist, but this line was so unexpected that I seriously paused for a moment to gawk. Did you want feminist points, Levenseller? Because yes, it is important to advocate for these in YA, but I wish it was done more organically. How about the fact that Alessandra is such an "I'm not like other girls" type of character? Or the fact that she judges her sister's innocence as harshly as she is judged? And you know, nobody in-universe actually gives a shit about Alessandra's sexual history. The only reason she gets in trouble is because she kills a boy and hides his body very badly.

God, this novel physically pained me.

TL;DR an absolute disaster. Readable, yes, but you're not missing out. Please ration your brain cells during this difficult time.

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