I received this book for free from the Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Shadow Run by AdriAnne Strickland, Michael Miller
Series: Kaitan Chronicles #1
Published by Delacorte Press on March 21 2017
Genres: Young adult, Science fiction
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The nitty-gritty: A fast-paced adventure in space with some cool world-building ideas, but with too much of an emphasis on the romance, it lost me in the second half.
Color me conflicted. I read lots of enthusiastic reviews of Shadow Run before I dove in, and based on its high ratings on Goodreads, I was fully expecting it to blow me away. Unfortunately, while there is plenty to love about this story, Shadow Run was missing that sparkle I was hoping for, and it ultimately left me a bit cold.
Qole Uvgamut is the captain of the Kaitan Heritage, a “fishing” ship whose quarry is an elusive substance called Shadow, a potentially powerful energy source with extremely volatile properties. Hunting Shadow is a dangerous but profitable business, and Qole is one of the best Shadow hunters out there. When the story begins, Qole has just taken on a new crew member, a young man named Nev. Unbeknownst to Qole, Nev is actually Nevarian Dracorte, a member of the royal Dracorte family and heir to the throne, who has been sent by his father to bring Qole back to his home planet of Luvos. Nev believes that Qole is the key to unlocking the mysteries of Shadow in order to use it for the good of civilization. Its untapped potential as an energy source could save lives, and Nev is determined to succeed in bringing Qole to his father.
But Nev isn’t the only one who knows how powerful Qole’s affinity to Shadow really is, and before he can formulate a plan to explain to Qole who he really is and how she can help the world, their ship is attacked, and Qole and her brother Arjan are captured. Qole unwittingly finds herself in the middle of a power struggle between two warring families, her life in grave danger. As Nev and Qole grow closer together, Nev must decide which side he’s on: standing with his family and the people of Luvos, or helping Qole and her crew escape a terrible fate.
First of all, Shadow Run has some pretty cool world-building, and it’s a world I’d love to learn more about, because I don’t think this story was sufficiently long enough to really dig deep into some of the authors’ ideas. I loved the concept of Shadow, a glowing substance that “swims” through space, hard to catch and dangerous when it is caught, but with so much potential for helping humanity. Then on the other hand, it’s extremely dangerous, and it causes plenty of trouble in this story. I enjoyed the comparison of Shadow to schools of fish and the idea that it has to be netted. Fishing in space! I also loved that Qole has Shadow inside her, and that her planet’s legacy is that the people who hunt for Shadow are literally becoming that substance. It’s an idea that I’m sure the authors will expand upon in future books.
Like many YA science fiction/dystopian novels, Shadow Run has a wide gap between the “haves” and “have nots” in the form of a ruling family steeped in wealth and tradition, living lives of ease and plenty, while the people of planets like Alaxak struggle to survive on an ice-bound planet, with Shadow as their only marketable resource. One of the most intriguing parts of this story—for me—were the mining drones, huge monstrosities that were programmed long ago by the Dracorte family to mine riches from the soil. Now, however, many of those resources have been plundered and are gone. Unfortunately, the drones don’t know this, and they continue to do their thing, digging deep into the earth even when nothing is there. No one knows how to shut them off or reprogram them, so the drones are a both a nuisance and a threat. The authors kept bringing up the drones throughout the story, and I kept thinking they were going to be important at some point. But even though they are finally used for a plot point near the end of the story, it just wasn’t enough for me.
Strickland and Miller have created some fantastic characters, and added a fair amount of diversity if you’re searching for diverse reads. One of my favorites—and the character with the most surprises—was Basra, one of Qole’s crew members and a gender fluid character. Basra is mostly in the background, but near the end he/she turned out to be so much more than I was expecting. There was a sweet and understated relationship between Basra and Arjan that I shipped, and believe me, I don’t usually “ship” characters!
Strangely enough, I enjoyed Nev’s character more than Qole’s, and I’m not completely sure why. Qole is really a wonderful character at first glance, a badass captain with plenty of secrets and a unique hidden weapon. But she turns out to be a bit wishy-washy after she—surprise—falls head over heels for Nev. The romance between Qole and Nev was one of my least favorite parts of the story, and once Qole realizes her feelings for Nev, they completely take over her focus.
Nev, on the other hand, kept surprising me. At the end of the story, he’s presented with a moral dilemma that tested his beliefs, and I thought it worked really well. His mission to bring Qole back to Luvos was called his “Dracorte Flight,” and I loved how it reminded me of the Amish Rumspringa.
Once the crew makes it to Nev’s planet of Luvos, however, the story started to fall apart for me. We’re introduced to a host of new characters, most of them vile. Qole clearly does not fit in with Nev’s royal family, and she makes blunder after social blunder before she decides to turn tail and get the hell out of there. It didn’t help matters that Qole and Arjan are continuously described as having “dark skin” and “weird accents,” alluding to the fact that they are different from everyone else in the story. Some readers are not going to take kindly to this clumsy attempt at adding diversity.
The last part of the story is fast-paced and exciting, and the authors put just about every character in mortal danger. I appreciated the fact that there isn’t a cliff hanger, and that most of the threads are tied up by the end. Strickland and Miller have a good thing going here, and despite some of my issues, I’m looking forward to continuing this series.
Big thanks to the publisher for supplying a review copy.