Author: Sophie Jordan
Narrator: Phoebe Strole, James Fouhey
Publication Date: February 9, 2016
Publisher: Harper Teen
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Seventeen years ago, an eclipse cloaked the kingdom of Relhok in perpetual darkness. In the chaos, an evil chancellor murdered the king and queen and seized their throne. Luna, Relhok’s lost princess, has been hiding in a tower ever since. Luna’s survival depends on the world believing she is dead.
But that doesn’t stop Luna from wanting more. When she meets Fowler, a mysterious archer braving the woods outside her tower, Luna is drawn to him despite the risk. When the tower is attacked, Luna and Fowler escape together. But this world of darkness is more treacherous than Luna ever realized.
With every threat stacked against them, Luna and Fowler find solace in each other. But with secrets still unspoken between them, falling in love might be their most dangerous journey yet.
With lush writing and a star–crossed romance, Reign of Shadows is Sophie Jordan at her best.
Reign of Shadows has just about every element that I love in a story - it's a retelling with a badass protagonist and a star-crossed romance. Although I've never read another Rapunzel retelling, she is one of my favorite princesses (I love them all if we're being honest). Basically, I had every reason to expect that I would love this book. When I first picked this up months and months ago, I read one chapter and put it down when it didn't catch my attention as quickly as I'd hoped. But when a friend insisted I would enjoy it, I decided to give the audio a try. In the end, I probably should've trusted my instincts on this one.
Luna is the Rapunzel of this retelling. Her parents were murdered when she was a baby and she has lived her entire life locked in a tower with two caretakers for protection from the darkness. The plan is to live out her life in the tower, safe from harm and believed dead. Luna wants desperately wants to go outside, but is only allowed brief trips to work on her survival skills at midlight, a brief period of light in the middle of each day.
Luna is also blind, which I never would have known if it wasn't expressly stated. Why? Because absolutely nothing about her points to this except for her saying it's so. Luna can "see" everything from bats flying around, to the sizes of the rooms she's in, to where furniture is in an unfamiliar house, based on the way the air moves. She is able to navigate unfamiliar forest terrain and roam about in a treetop village with zero effort. Her disability is a non-disability and I have mixed feelings. On the one hand, it's cool to have a blind MC who is able to do everything a seeing person can do. On the other hand, why is she blind other than as a plot device? But I digress.
Everything changes for Luna when Fowler enters her life, purely by chance. He is on the run from his former life and, although he doesn't want to be responsible for anyone's well-being, he unwittingly gets roped into taking Luna along on his journey to find safety. Fowler was the saving grace of this story for me. I loved his backstory and growth and I mostly loved the romance between him and Luna, although it did have its issues. I felt like the relationship between Fowler and Luna was sweet and realistic, especially given the circumstances surrounding them.
The world building was one area I definitely thought Reign of Shadows should have excelled in, and it mostly did. I love the idea of a world covered by an eclipse for decades! The atmosphere was unsettling and I really did enjoy it. However, there were glaring issues that I couldn't overlook. The first is that plant life and even entire forests still seem to be thriving in this world with next to no light. But the most blatant is the Dwellers - humanoid monsters that have seemingly appeared with the eclipse but with no explanation. There are multiple descriptions of Dwellers and how terrifying they are, but WHAT are they? Where did they come from? Did they poof down out of the moon?
While Reign of Shadows wasn't absolutely horrible, it just wasn't for me. There were some good twists and the romance was pretty good, but overall I just couldn't make myself enjoy this. I usually love every retelling I read, so I'm sad I can't add this one to my list of favorites. As it stands, there are much better retellings out there.