Book Tour Review: Shadow on the Highway by Deborah Swift

Friday, September 12, 2014
Title: Shadow on the Highway
Author: Deborah Swift
Genre: historical fiction
Series: Highway Trilogy #1
Pages: 294
Source: Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours for review
Rating: 3/5

Abigail Chaplin has always been unable to find a position as a maidservant like other girls, because she is deaf. So why do the rich Fanshawes of Markyate Manor seem so anxious to employ her? And where exactly does her mistress, Lady Katherine, ride out to at night?

SHADOW ON THE HIGHWAY is based on the life and legend of Lady Katherine Fanshawe, the highwaywoman, sometimes known as The Wicked Lady. A tale of adventure and budding romance set in the turbulent English Civil War, this is a novel to delight teens and adults alike. 

The first book in a series but which can also be read as a standalone, Deborah Swift launches her Highway Trilogy with some memorable characters and interesting plotlines with Shadow on the Highway. Set against the backdrop of the English Civil War, with an unusual protagonist in an uncertain position with an unpredictable mistress, main character Abi's struggles are both real and fraught and make for a rapid read. Full of historical detail and information (communes! In England! In 1651!), Shadow on the Highway is a quick but mostly appealing read.

I was drawn to this book because it does a few things differently than most English-centric historical fiction I read. For one, Abi is a commoner, and two, she is deaf. And I loved that Swift didn't let her disability be the whole of her characterization. Being deaf is only part of the full picture that is Abigail. She's smart, hardworking, stubborn, and loyal. She makes mistakes, she saves the day... she has many facets and attributes. Her relationship with Lady Katherine makes for some drama, but it's a steadily evolving and changing bond between the two young women.

I wasn't as much of a fan of the supporting cast as I was of Abigail. Lady Katherine has her moments but a lot of her actions didn't ring completely true for me. I could see her leading a double life, but a triple life as a Lady/Thief/Maid? That was too hard to believe, no matter how strained and distant her relationship with her husband and stepfather. Ralph, too, needed a bit more development to feel real. I liked that Swift used him to bring some different ideas to the story, but as a person, Ralph wasn't as defined as I would have liked. 

Shadow on the Highway was a good starter for a YA historical series. The plot was neatly wrapped up with satisfaction while still leaving ample room for more story with the two planned sequels. The historical detail and Abi herself were easily my favorite parts of the novel and I look forward to what the author will write next.

1 comment:

  1. Great review. I felt the same way about Katherine/Kate, too (and frankly, I struggled with how Abi could like after her behavior, but whatever, I was a fickle teen so I should get it).


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