Moorehawke Trilogy: The Crowded Shadows by Celine Kiernan

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Moorehawke Trilogy: The Crowded Shadows by Celine Kiernan

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Category: Teens
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Robert James
Reviewed by Robert James
Summary: Superb follow up to The Poison Throne surpasses the excellent original as the journey of the central trio gets sidetracked; the brilliant character development is paired with some thought provoking points on different cultures.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 560 Date: September 2010
Publisher: Orbit
ISBN: 978-1841498225

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At the end of the first book of the Moorehawke Trilogy, The Poison Throne, Wynter Moorhawke, her childhood friend Razi, and her romantic interest Christopher were all desperately trying to find Razi's half-brother Alberon, whose father Jonathon appeared to be driven insane. I thought I knew exactly what to expect from this second novel in the sequence, but was thrown sideways by the massive detour taken.

As they journey to look for Alberon, they find that the woods they're sneaking through are full of various other characters with their own agendas - notably the Loup Garous, the vicious Wolves who previously captured Christopher, and the Merron, Christopher's own people, who have hopes and dreams of settling down under King Jonathon. Having spent much of The Poison Throne introducing a varied and interesting supporting cast, Kierney takes the brave decision to barely include any of them in this story - instead, it's heavily focused on the main trio and the new acquaintances they make. I'm using the word acquaintances rather than friends intentionally here - it's clear that both groups have too much at stake for normal friendships to be formed, instead they're both using each other to try and get what they want. The new characters are really well drawn and the development of Wynter, Razi and Chris is excellent once more, particularly the dialogue between Wynter and Chris, who are rapidly becoming one of my favourite recent romantic couples.

It's the high stakes and necessarily shady behaviour of both groups which make this such a powerful, thought-provoking fantasy. Some of the methods the 'heroes' are forced to use are decidedly far from normal heroic behaviour. The overriding, if unstated, question throughout the book is Does the end justify the means? It's an interesting one which will cause readers to consider their own views on the central trio and the people they meet, and that has to be a good thing. With envoys from pretty much every hated ruler for miles around seeing Prince Alberon, it looks like the third book will provide even more intriguing moral dilemmas.

All in all, this is a completely different book from the one I was expecting and a justifiable criticism might be that the central quest barely seems to have advanced much over the hundreds of pages - but when a diversion can be this enjoyable and stimulating and also flesh out the world and the characters so well, it would be a harsh reviewer indeed who could find it in them not to give this the full five stars. One very minor caveat, however - it felt decidedly more adult in tone than the previous book. Nothing I'd feel particularly unhappy about passing on to a mature reader in their mid-teens, but just be aware there's a couple of fairly gruesome deaths.

Extremely high recommendation, and book three is now pretty much top of my personal 'Most Wanted' list.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.

Further reading suggestion: Although it's not specifically aimed at teens, mature readers who enjoyed The Crowded Shadows and want to read more fantasy with politics and romance intertwined would be well advised to take a look at The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by NK Jemisin.

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