Review: The Shadow Society by Marie Rutkoski

Thursday, September 27, 2012
Title: The Shadow Society
Author: Marie Rutkoski
Genre: young-adult, supernatural fiction
Series: N/A
Pages: 416 (Nook ARC edition)
Published: expected October 16, 2012
Source: publishers via NetGalley
Rating: 2/5

Darcy Jones doesn’t remember anything before the day she was abandoned as a child outside a Chicago firehouse. She has never really belonged anywhere—but she couldn’t have guessed that she comes from an alternate world where the Great Chicago Fire didn’t happen and deadly creatures called Shades terrorize the human population.

Memories begin to haunt Darcy when a new boy arrives at her high school, and he makes her feel both desire and desired in a way she hadn’t thought possible. But Conn’s interest in her is confusing. It doesn’t line up with the way he first looked at her.

As if she were his enemy.

When Conn betrays Darcy, she realizes that she can’t rely on anything—not herself, not the laws of nature, and certainly not him. Darcy decides to infiltrate the Shadow Society and uncover the Shades’ latest terrorist plot. What she finds out will change her world forever . . .

So many good ideas and golden opportunities were wasted or ignored over the course this supernatural story set in Chicago. I had high hopes for this - I own the first two books in the author's Kronos Chronicles series and have been meaning to get to them for months - but The Shadow Society never lived up to its blurb and my expectations. Promising originality, suspense and intrigue, the book I read delivered nothing of the sort. Instead I got the same old cliched approaches and ideas so generic in the young-adult genre: the oh so attractive though antagonistic love interest, the sketchy and unfulfilled world-building glossed over in favor to focus on a romance with the lonely girl who feels out of place, etc. It's certainly very a readable novel - I will give it that, this is a book that is hard to put down - but that doesn't necessarily translate into it being a good book. 

Despite starting out with a bang in a well-done and intriguing prologue, the novel falters soon out of the gate and never really regains the initial excitement. Formulaic, and occasionally predictable the author fails to make the most of good ideas and themes touched upon too rarely in The Shadow Society. The concept of the novel is strong and noteworthy, but the execution of various plotlines AND of the cast of characters is rough, clumsy, and often unengaging. Or just disappointing - the climax particularly stands out as massively anticlimactic and not worth sloughing through 400+ pages to reach. The Shadow Society moves along at a decent clip, so it's never boring, though it is a bit short in the action department for the majority of the narrative.

Darcy is mostly drawn well, but also caused problems with my involvement with the novel. Subject to some of my least favorite tropes of the genre (the love triangle, the fact that 3 boys love her oh so much, her inability to make smart decisions), they end up detracting from her better traits. I liked that despite the views from both sides of the human/Shade conflict, nothing was as black and white as it appeared. There is some depth to the conflict Rutkoski creates for the novel, but it feels entirely shortchanged by how easily the author chose to conclude everything. It's too neat, too simple of an ending for the scenario that has been use up over the course of the book. The secondary characters mostly shine - especially the spunky Lily and the earnest and hilarious Jims - but they're not given enough screen time to make up for the lack of tension, atmosphere or world-building. 

So much unnecessary filler, so many failed opportunities, so much left superficial, a cop-out of an ending, and a cloying romance made for a less than enthusiastic read. I finished the novel, but more out of a feeling of duty than of want. If this were a series rather than a standalone, it would not be one that I chose to pursue past this first novel. Too generic and undeveloped for my taste, I will read Rutkoski's first series and try to forget about this one.


  1. I have this coming up for review shortly. I am worried now. Thanks a lot, Jessie!! Lovely review as always though. At least you have lowered my expectations a bit, not that they were all that high to begin with... ;)

    1. I am really curious to see what you will make of it. Blythe is also starting this soon, and I don't see it going over particularly well for either of you. I hope you do find more about it to like than I did, but I doubt it!

  2. I've heard SO many bad things about this one, so I'm skipping it for sure. I'm sorry it didn't work out for you, Jessie, but I unfortunately can't say I'm surprised. I feel like most of the books this year have been falling into this category. :/ Anyway, fantastic review, dear, and thanks for saving me the time from picking this up! :D

    1. There are kernels of good ideas here (the conflict, the Shades) but the execution leaves soooo much to be desired. As does the protagonist! And I definitely think you'd be rolling your eyes in exasperation before page 100, Keera! (Can I call you that? I want to make a nickname for you so bad!)


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