Review/Analysis of The Shadow Reader by Sandy Williams

2 Nov

The Shadow Reader by Sandy Williams
Penguin Group (October 2011)
Mass Market: $7.99; ebook: $7.99
ISBN: 9781937007010

Favorite Lines: “The metal presses deeper. I’m too terrified for it to hurt, too surprised to manage a protest or plea. Warm, thick fluid bleeds down my throat.” (p.144)

There can only be one allegiance.
It’s her time to choose.

Some humans can see the fae. McKenzie Lewis can track them, reading the shadows they leave behind. But some shadows lead to danger. Others lead to lies.

A Houston college student trying to finish her degree, McKenzie has been working for the fae king for years, tracking vicious rebels who would claim the Realm. Her job isn’t her only secret. For just as long, she’s been in love with Kyol, the king’s sword-master—and relationships between humans and fae are forbidden.

But any hope for a normal life is shattered when she’s captured by Aren, the fierce and uncompromising rebel leader. He teaches her the forbidden fae language and tells her dark truths about the Court, all to persuade her to turn against the king. Time is running out, and as the fight starts to claim human lives, McKenzie has no choice but to decide once and for all whom to trust and where she ultimately stands in the face of a cataclysmic civil war.

While reading The Shadow Reader, I sucked up the tension and quickly flipped through the pages. I wasn’t thrilled with the idea of a love triangle when I began reading, but it wasn’t until I finished reading the book that it really bothered me. I’ll go into that later.

The story is pretty awesome…on the surface. The heroine is trying to save the fae. She is kidnapped and told she is helping the wrong side. Along with her, we learn the truth about the war raging among the fae. The characters are fully fleshed, the mystery aspect of the story is well written and I became emotionally involved. The story is fast paced and enthralling. I loved it, until I didn’t. The Shadow Reader is book one in Sandy Williams’ McKenzie Lewis series and is told in the first person.

I try to avoid analyzing books for several reasons. The most important reason is that I read for entertainment and pleasure. The books I generally read will not impress me politically or in any other way. They are simply a way for me to escape my life for a few hours. The Shadow Reader is different, although I didn’t realize it until I was explaining the book to my cousin. Then I became irritated and my 4 star GoodReads rating of the book seemed like a major mistake. Don’t get me wrong. I loved every minute of reading the book until I thought about what the book was really saying and then my opinion of it plummeted.


Many women love the danger and excitement associated with a “bad boy.” I love bad boy heroes, too. But I don’t understand how unrequited love of 10 years can be written off over the course of a few weeks. McKenzie knows that her friend and would-be-lover Kyol is honorable and trust worthy. He has always protected her and it is only by the dictate of his king that he has not acted upon his feelings toward her.

Kyol has always been clear that a relationship between them is not possible, despite the passion and love he feels for her. However, when it is possible for the two to get together, she chooses elsewhere because he didn’t choose her soon enough. What? His willingness to do the right thing was a major attraction for McKenzie. She was drawn to his honor. But she was so fickle that she didn’t even take the time explore the possibility of a relationship with her friend and dream warrior. He risked everything for her and she gave him nothing.  Why?

I never should have had to wait ten years for him. I should have respected myself more than that, known I deserved to be treated better.–p. 306 (McKenzie thinking about Kyol)

Just who can treat her better? Well obviously the bad boy who abused her, Aren. Hell, he more than abused her. He almost killed her by slitting her throat. Later, he healed her. Really? This is what we are telling girls and women is important? It’s okay that your hero cut your throat because he loves you. It’s better to choose him…the man you’ve known for a few weeks…the man who slit your throat…than to investigate your feelings that have evolved over the course of 10 years.  I don’t understand. Especially when it is paired with the following statement.

“If I were a good man,” he says, “I’d acknowledge that Taltrayn is an honorable fae, that he loves you and would take care of you. I’d step down and let you have the man you’ve always wanted, but, McKenzie, I’m not as good as Taltrayn. I never will be, and I can’t step down. I’ll fight for the chance to be with you.” (Aren speaking to McKenzie about Kyol aka Taltrayn)

I’m a romantic and at first I thought it was so lovely. He’d always put her first unlike Kyol who chose his promise to his king. He loves her so much, he’d never let her go. Now, pair that mentality with a man who has shown violence against a woman. It adds an ominous air to the story.

Fifty years from now, women will read this book and cite it as a literary example of the breakdown in society. It shows how deeply instilled women have become with the idea of needing a man at all times. McKenzie needed a man in her life so bad that she chose a violent man over hopes of finding a man who would cut off his own arm before harming the woman he felt passion for or the man she has loved for years. She didn’t even consider re-evaluating what she wanted in a man. She is an example of the battered women who are hospitalized by the men who love them, yet go right back home to the men because they apologized, showed kindness and said “I love you.”

Worse. I never liked the idea of the heroine finding new love, but I accepted it. Until I retold the good parts of the story aloud. Then my brain kicked in. I would never want my friend to be with a man who abused her. The heroines in my books are my “literary” friends. I don’t want them with abusive men either.

So while The Shadow Reader is an engaging book, I’m not sure that I’ll continue the series because I don’t like the undercover ideology. During war bad things happen. It would have been bad if the hero let someone injure the heroine. But to allow the hero to purposely injure the woman he cares for is hard to swallow. For my heroine to choose violence over love–that’s almost unforgivable.


6 Responses to “Review/Analysis of The Shadow Reader by Sandy Williams”

  1. Sabrina November 2, 2011 at 11:56 am #

    I can understand your frustration with parts of the book, things like the one you described also bother me and make me even a bit mad.

  2. scooper November 2, 2011 at 12:21 pm #

    I just can’t believe how much I loved the story until I started talking about it. Then it felt like wow…you’d be yelling at the tv or a friend if you watched it happen. IDK Have you read it? What did you think?

  3. Sabrina November 2, 2011 at 1:09 pm #

    I haven’t read the book and now will probably not do it because I get way too emotional about things like that. I would be annoyed for days and I don’t want that.

  4. scooper November 2, 2011 at 2:03 pm #

    I understand. I seem to be the only one feeling this way, so you might be okay.


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