Review Blog

Apr 22 2010

The crowded shadows by Celine Kiernan

cover image

Allen and Unwin, 2010. ISBN 9781741758702.
(Age 15+) Highly recommended. The second in the Moorehawke Trilogy, The crowded shadows follows Wynter's dangerous trip through the bandit infested mountains in search of Prince Alberon. She has left her beloved father behind in an attempt to reach the prince and try and avert war. Attacked by two men in the forest, she narrowly averts harming her beloved friend Razi and is overjoyed to see Christopher. Then begins a long and arduous trip, avoiding pitfalls and meeting up with the Merron, Christopher's people, who are messengers for Marguerite Shirken whom Wynter's father has fought in the past. Who can Wynter trust?
As with all excellent books, the plot line is too complex to summarise. It is sufficient to say that the story line is utterly compelling with some scenes like the rituals of the Merron so heartbreaking that they are unforgettable. Kiernan has a beautiful lyrical writing style that is easy to read and she brings her rich fantasy world to life. Issues like racism and persecution of the travelling Merron people are handled deftly and provide a thought provoking background to the main characters. I found it easy to immerse myself in the shadowy world of the forest and was totally caught up in the adventures of Wynter, Christopher and Razi.
In The crowded shadows Kiernan develops her characters more fully. In many ways this is Christopher's story. Finding out about some of his previous background as a slave with the Loups-Garous was mind blowing and made me follow his flawed character avidly. Wynter is a strong protagonist, a warrior woman, and the romance between the two grows in depth. Razi, too, falls in love, with a beautiful Merron lady, Embla, and the love sequence between these two will stay with me forever. All characters are tried and tested repeatedly and it is these challenges that kept me reading avidly.
I liked the unusual black and white cover that evokes the mood of the novel and makes it stand out.
This is outstanding fantasy writing and the trilogy deserves a place in every library.
Pat Pledger

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