The Shadow Society: review

September 18, 2012 2 star books, 2012, fantasy, K., Marie Rutkoski 59

the shadow society marie rutkoski

The Shadow Society
by Marie Rutkoski

Three words sum up my overall experience with The Shadow Society: I don’t know. I didn’t know what I was reading and I still am not quite sure. I do know that I didn’t like it very much. The plot was uninteresting, the world building was lacking, and the characters were mediocre.

It’s about Darcy, a foster child of many, always being returned to the system, always needing a place to belong. Finally she’s found a place where she has a home, a school, and friends. The mystery to her is her past — she is missing the first five years of her life. Intriguing, non? Well, not really. As a character, Darcy was kind of undetermined for me. She had no solid personality with which I could identify her. I didn’t know if she was the sweet, vulnerable, sensitive type. Or the badass, take-no-crap kind of girl. I don’t take kindly to books that pigeonhole a protagonist with two-dimensionality, but you have to add some colour to the central lead and I felt like Darcy not only was a dull grey-ish, beige-ish, pale-ish colour in the most energizing of scenes but actually lacked colour all together for the rest.

I report, sadly, the same of the love interest. Conn, the boy with the “past”, the “secret”, who everyone refers to as “ruthless”. I think the airquotes say enough. I just didn’t get the intensity of him. His dramatic contribution came and went without even a hello. The secondary characters were flavoured just a bit more — as it often happens — but only because they were too joke-y, too snobbish, or too bossy. You had no choice but hang a name tag identifying them as The Best Friend, The Jokester, The Pining Boy, and The Bitch.

The plot. I think this book achieved the shortest, laziest, most anti-climatic climax ever in the history of all young adult fiction K. has read. It was gone before I even realized it’d arrived. It is a countdown to midnight: two opposite ends of the city, there will be an attack, two sides will be coming to a head, and a massacre about to be carried out. It must be stopped. And it was, if I remember correctly, all within fifteen minutes. If even. And when you discover the key with which they solved this problem…ay!

But besides that, the entire book was simply implausible. The characters’ reactions to situations, revelations, and each other were just unrealistic — at the very least, I can’t imagine myself or anyone I know reacting as such. There is an alternate world here, people. Darcy (who learns something shocking about herself) gets stuck in this world. Her oh so loyal human friends (who have no qualms whatsoever when they learn this “something shocking” about Darcy) find the portal to this other dimension, and somehow get away with just being there — no guide, no knowledge at all of this place except what they observe on the streets. They rent trespass into an abondoned house, somehow able to buy groceries/clothes/other necessities (and even go clubbing!). Huh?

The world building. Well, I did say I don’t know what I’d read, right? Then you’ll understand why I can’t explain to you in any great detail about this one. I know that there are two worlds. They are parallel, split in half by a single event — the Great Chicago Fire. In both worlds, there is the existence of another…population. In our world, this “population” has been eliminated. But in the other world, they have not and because of this, there is a great divide between this other world’s inhabitants. That was all I gathered, and all I can safely relay with any confidence. It was muddy. And when it wasn’t, it was not convincing.

This was a weak story. My heart is not at all in this review. I cared so little that I don’t even have the energy to dislike it properly — with indignation and supreme pomposity. I’d never tell you not to read a book because each to his or her own and I can certainly see how many might find this a really good read. The problem, truly, for me (which is a shame as I was really excited and hopeful) was that it just didn’t have anything new to distinguish it from the masses of young adult books in the market.

But, nice cover.

Rated 2 out of 5 stars

This review also appears on Goodreads. An advance copy was provided by the publisher.

59 Responses to “The Shadow Society: review”

  1. ~Jennifer~

    This sounded like a really promising read, but I think I might skip it. I’ve also read other reviews that weren’t positive for this book. Sucks. *sigh*

  2. Neyra

    Oh wow >.< you know i've read other reviews that say almost the same thing.. that this book just wasn't at all what they'd expected and it didn't really start off w/ a bang nor did it end great at all >.< that's just sad, It had promise! Great review though K. :)

  3. Jaime Lester

    Well, that is disappointing. I was really intrigued by the premise of this book. Well, honestly, probably more by the cover. Unfortunately, I haven’t seen the greatest reviews for The Shadow Society. I might have looked past that and tried it anyway, but one of my pet peeves is a character that is just that, a character. Oh well, at least that frees up a space on my TBR list. Thanks for the review!

  4. YA Anonymous

    I’m kind of over the “other world” plotline. The cover is gorgeous though. Ah well, another one bites the dust. Nice review, K.

    -Maggie

  5. Nicole T

    Oh, usually by the cover I can sort of tell whether the book will be good or not. The cover captured me, but when I read your review it gave me a seconds pause to actually consider if it was a good book or not. I’m sorry that this book did not work well with you, I hate when that happens! The fact that the whole climax of the story was within 15 minutes sort of threw me off because, well… that’s not really possible. What kind of massacre takes place within 15 minutes? It doesn’t make sense. I don’t know, I guess it’s different for everyone, but maybe one day I’ll give this book a shot, who knows?

    • K.

      I’m not sure if it was 15 minutes, but it was very little time that it seemed crazy implausible.

  6. Steph

    Great review! Sorry to hear that you didn’t really like this one. It’s been on my wishlist for a long time and I was really looking forward to it. I’m a bit wary of it now, but I’ll probably still give it a shot.

    • K.

      I’m glad you’re still reading this, Steph. I don’t actually want people to take my word and swear off a book because I didn’t like it. That’s mean to book, aha!

  7. Bonnie R

    I feel like I’m having this same problem with most of the YA’s I’m picking up lately too: there’s just nothing new! It seems like storylines are being re-used again and again with minor tweaks and zero originality. I think I’m in a YA book slump, unfortunately.

    • K.

      Well, to be fair, I think its near impossible to actually BE original anymore. But I know too well what you mean…its the same ingredients, they all taste the same. Blech.

  8. erin

    thanks for the review. I’m kinda disappointed cuz I was eyeing this one… it looked interesting… guess I’m gonna be waiting for library or sale.

  9. Livvy

    I’m glad I never decided to go for this book because it sounds pretty boring and I don’t really want to read another bad book!

    And I think with ideas like Foster care an author has to pull it off really well for it to work and not be too boring and repetitive.

    This will most likely be a book I stay away from. I really liked your review! :)

    • K.

      Thanks, Livvy but I don’t anyone should say no to a book because of reviews…unless they’re all bad, haha!

  10. Emily @ Falling For YA

    Weird, I had the complete opposite experience with this book. I just finished it yesterday and really enjoyed it I liked the inclusion of the history of Chicago and the whole parallel world thing. I guess to each her own!

  11. thebookfairyhaven

    I kept seeing this book on Goodreads but for some or other reason, was quite reluctant to add it to my TBR pile. After reading your review, I can only say I’m glad I went with my gut feeling. Also, The boy with the past and “secret”? Sigh. Isn’t that one getting a tad bit old? Or perhaps this was just a book that got it so very wrong. Really enjoyed reading your review K. ~ Tammy

    • K.

      Thank you, Tammy. I know, as soon as the male lead showed up under a tree glaring at her threateningly whilst sending pleasure shivers down her spine…ugh.

  12. The Teen Book Guru

    “I cared so little that I don’t even have the energy to dislike it properly — with indignation and supreme pomposity.”

    Haha K, I know that maybe I shouldn’t be laughing because, lets face it, bad books are really no laughing matter, but HA! I can’t believe it was that horrible that you couldn’t even dislike it properly!

    Seriously, though, I can totally understand why you didn’t enjoy it—while the cover is admittedly gorgeous, the plot from the blurb seems dreadfully boring and, you’re right, not at all different from all the other YA books out there right now. What a shame, because, again, the cover! :P Lovely review K! <3

  13. TayteH

    Wow. Sounds like a mixed up bunch of words. Wish you liked it better, but thanks for sharing your thoughts. :D

  14. KM

    Most anticlimactic ending EVER in YA? That’s pretty intense. Too bad! I’ve got to agree, though – great cover! :)

  15. A Canadian Girl

    Uh, I guess I won’t be reading this one now. Weak worldbuilding and terrible character development are just not something I handle well. Thanks for the warning, K!

    Also, why is it mysterious that Darcy can’t remember the first five years of her life? People tend not to have many memories of that time period.

  16. Stepping Out of the Page

    I agree Wendy, great cover! It’s a massive shame that the contents didn’t live up to what was on the outside though! I really respect your reviews, so I think this is one I’ll probably give a miss too. Hope your next read is better!

    Steph @ SOOTP

  17. Stephanie Sinclair

    I did enjoy this one a little more than you, K, but I agree with your review. I think the first half was much stronger than the second. And the explanation with the friends finding the alternate word? Made no logical sense.

    • K.

      Haha, I know Stephanie. I saw your status updates and realized you were having a better time than me :/ And ugh, I can’t even talk about the friends just ending up there like they’re skipping 2nd period, like no biggie! And the ending!!

  18. Sam

    K, I’m sorry it didn’t work for you! It sounds incredibly disappointing, especially where the plot and characters are concerned. I can tolerate anti-climatic storylines if the rest is enjoyable enough, but that doesn’t seem likely here.

    Well… at least I have been warned.

    Lovely review, my dear! :)

    • K.

      Oh, Sam. I can also accept anti-climatic storylines but the problem was this wasn’t supposed to be one. It was set up (or so it seemed) to have this epic battle of two sides. A massacre was being planned for crying out loud! I know not!

      And yes, you’ve been warned!

      Oh, and thanks!

  19. Christina

    Well, boo! The beautiful cover tempted me into requesting this on NG, but I think I’m going to end up DNFing and I feel anything like you did as I start reading.

    • K.

      You should still give it a go, Christina. I always say that you never know…I’ve read books people didn’t like and ended up loving. So, try it anyway…?

  20. Amy

    It’s too bad that you weren’t able to enjoy this book. The premise sounds interesting and the cover is really pretty. I skipped on this because I didn’t think I would have time to get to it. I guess that it’s a good thing I decided not to get it.

    • K.

      Haha, Natalia. Well I was intrigued enough to request an arc but this just didn’t end up as one of the good ones.

  21. Savannah Valdez

    Aww too bad. I like this story a lot. I think the premise and the idea of the book really got me hooked. Thanks for being honest in your review.

  22. Maji Bookshelf

    oh no… I was REALLY looking forward to it and one of my pet peeves is when the whole book is building up to a climax that passes by in a second and has the most simplistic answer to the whole problem. ugh, and such a mediocre protagonist? now I’m really started it with the lowest expectations EVER.

    great review

    – Juhina @ Maji Bookshelf

    • K.

      You hit it right on the nail, Maji. The climax was a bump rather than a towering cliff, and the way they solved it…I can’t even.

  23. Melliane

    I’m sorry it wasn’t for you, there are books like that… It’s unfortunate because I really like the cover lol. thanks for the review I didn’t know this one.

  24. Vegan YA Nerds

    What a shame, K, but reviewed so well. A character like Darcy would have left me with weak feelings and it sounds like this book had very little to offer

  25. Wendy Darling

    This looked so promising! It’s a shame it was such a disappointment to you. I’ve seen quite a few posiitive reviews for this book (starred one from Publishers Weekly, I believe), but after your review and reading the first chapter, I’m not sure this one’s for me either.

  26. Sarah (saz101)

    Oh, DAMN.

    “The plot. I think this book achieved the shortest, laziest, most anti-climatic climax ever in the history of all young adult fiction K. has read.”

    This does not bode well :(
    Damn shame, too. I mean, I SO get what you mean about not wanting a character to be only a cariacture or an archetype. But… they need some kind of solidity. Even if people aren’t like it IRL.

    Even so, how you manage to write such an AMAZING review, even when the book was kind of rubbish is further proof of your superb positronic brain *nods*

    • K.

      Amen, Sarah! The ending was the worst, though. When you find out how a character stopped the attack…I almost want you to read it just to see your reaction!

    • Sarah (saz101)

      You know… when you put it like that it’s kind of tempting :D

      …convince me not to actually do it. I swear I don’t have time… but WTFery ending sounds so hilarious STUPID and and and…

  27. Candace

    Well that stinks! I was a little interested in this one because of the description but wasn’t rushing out to get it or anything. I’ll have to look through other reviews to see what others have to say. For now I’m thinking that this probably wouldn’t be the book for me, but you have piqued my interest about others’ thoughts on it. Thanks for your honesty!

    • K.

      Oh definitely, Candace. Don’t ever just take someone else’s word for it. That’s why I say that I can see how this would be fun for others. Just not me.

  28. Keertana

    I’m so sorry this book didn’t work out for you, K., but I can TOTALLY see why. In fact, from what you’ve said of it, I’m very glad I decided to knock it off my TBR-Pile – it just doesn’t seem worth my time. Plus, world-building is one of those make-it-or-break-it deals for me and I think I’d drive myself mad with the world-building in this, not to mention the lazy plot! Anyway, thanks for taking one for the team, K., and warning us all to stay away from this one! Yet another brilliant review from you, dear! :)

    • K.

      Thanks, Keertana. I think this would be okay for readers who may not ask too many questions. But I do and I had many confusions as I went along. And the plot really did feel lazy, or not developed enough.

  29. elena

    Aw, K, that is a nice cover but I’m sad it didn’t live up to it. It feels like I would be very confused by this novel too and it sucks that it’s so forgettable. Thanks for your honest review!

  30. dragongirl

    Aw, that’s too bad that it was so disappointing. It’s on my to-read list, but from your review, it sounds like I wouldn’t care much for it either, so I’ll wait for my library to get it. Good review though! :)

    • K.

      Yes, library is a safe bet. I certainly wouldn’t have wanted to have spent my money on this :/

  31. Elle

    Oh! I’m sorry to hear this wasn’t for you. I have it on my reading list, but was skeptical towards it, even more now. We’ll see! :)