“The Shadows Between Us” by Tricia Levenseller. New York : Feiwel and Friends, 2020. 336pp.
Alessandra is the second daughter of an earl in a society rigidly defined by the rules of the nobility. Alessandra, however, has her own plans, and they do not involve waiting chastely for her older sister to wed.
In fact, Alessandra has already lived quite the life for a girl of 18. After her first romantic involvement ended in heartbreak (and murder), she decided that power was more important than love. Dallying with the sons of the nobility was all well and good, as it allowed her to hone the skills she would need to see her plan to fruition. As long as she held a secret from each of her lovers, she was safe from exposure.
The Shadow King is Alessandra’s ultimate goal. The most powerful man in the kingdom (and the 5 additional kingdoms he has conquered), this was a mark worthy of her skills. He had already turned away countless other daughters of the nobility (including her pesky older sister), but Alessandra was undaunted. Her desire for power does not stop with marrying the Shadow King, however; she plans to kill him – after they are safely married – and make the kingdom her own.
As Alessandra comes to court and manages to catch the King’s eye, she also becomes aware of the intrigue which leaves the Shadow King paranoid and alone at court. At first, she weaves her web with calculated moves, but soon is caught up in the crises which rule the Shadow King’s days. As she uses her wits and intellect to help the king, she begins to think of him as maybe more than a mark.
As with any good love story, the ending will not be a surprise. The path to the end, however, takes the reader on a journey with Alessandra. At first, she seems despicable in the way she uses and discards the men in her life. As the plot thickens, however, the reader’s view of Alessandra changes, and it becomes easier to root for her. Her desire for power is revealed to be a desire to be seen and valued, and her heartless behavior towards men becomes understandable as the reader sees the unfair and misogynistic rules of the society that keep her down. As the Shadow King opens up and confides his fear of an assassination attempt, Alessandra finds herself doing all she can to protect the king – and not just because it advances her own plot. In fact, her plot changes as she learns more about the King, and herself, and that there is at least one man who is worthy of her – not because of a title that is conferred, but because of the nature of his heart.
This Young Adult novel is fast paced, well written, and throws the standard aristocratic romance novel conventions to the wind. Highly recommended for anyone who enjoys court intrigue and young passion.
Deana Cunningham in the Associate Director of Operations for the Alamance County Public Libraries. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.