Author: Meagan Spooner
Genre: young adult, fantasy, steampunk
Series: Skylark #2
Pages: 336 (ARC edition)
Expected publication: October 1, 2013
Source: publishers via NetGalley
Ever since she escaped the city within the Wall, Lark Ainsley's wanted one thing: to find her brother Basil. She's always believed he would be the one to put an end to the constant fear and flight. And now, hidden underground in the chaotically magical city of Lethe, Lark feels closer to him than ever.
But Lethe is a city cowering in fear of its founder, the mysterious Prometheus, and of his private police force. To get the truth about what happened to Basil, Lark has no choice but to face Prometheus.
Facing her fears has become second nature to Lark. Facing the truth is another matter.
Lark never asked to be anyone's savior. She certainly never wanted to be anyone's weapon. She might not have a choice.
Unfortunately where Skylark kept me up late guessing, and failing to guess, the twists, Shadowlark’s major reveal was pretty apparent early on. The first book is big with discovery and magical world building, while the second is much more tightly focused on one city, one fight. That’s certainly not a negative, but because survival in the wilderness was one of the things that made the first book unique, it’s disappointing that more of the Shadowlark doesn’t take place outside. After an early scene in the ruins above Lethe, which, admittedly, was excellent, it becomes a little generic.
I don’t mean to be critical, because I hope my score reflects a great enjoyment of the book. It just didn’t speak to me the way the first did and I was left wanting. But, we are introduced to some very interesting new characters, include queer characters, which always thrills me in YA fantasy. (Or adult fantasy. Or sci-fi. Or contemporary...) The aforementioned scene in the ruins is tense and emotional, and was a real standout for me. Lethe is a hybrid of the city within the Wall and the Iron Forest, giving us our first good look at how magic and technology can coexist. There’s a lot of interest and to like.
Lastly, I appreciate how grey everything has become. Shadowlark asks a lot of questions about the nature of humanity and what evil is. It’s easy to look at cannibalistic shadows and to draw a line, but when they’re not as in-human as you thought? What then? And what expense would you spare for someone you love?
It’s just a shame it came after one of my favorite books of 2013 and has to set the stage for what comes next. Shadowlark may suffer from middle book syndrome, but the conclusion to the Skylark Trilogy remains at the top of my to-be-read list.