The Shadow Atlas: Initiate by Jenny Sandiford
Exciting Twists and Turns!
Azalea Sharpe is the daughter of two Houses of magic, one Echo and one Shadow. She is eighteen years old, and with her Shadow magic building out of control, her uncle advises that she be sent away to London, to a special school where she can learn to control her powers. However, she has another power, and that is to see spirits. Her father has returned to her from beyond the grave, and he gifts her a special book: The Shadow Atlas, so that she may raise him from the dead. The problem is: that’s illegal. Who can she trust in this new world?
I really liked this book. While there were phrases and words used in ways that I’ve never seen before (making for a few confusing moments), overall it was well-written, and the plot was laid out efficiently. Some scenes were included ahead of time so that later scenes didn’t come out of nowhere, a problem I’ve noticed in other books that didn’t show up here. Sometimes an author will throw something into a book at a time that seems highly convenient without laying the groundwork ahead of time, and it feels sloppy; in this book, the groundwork was already built so it felt much more cohesive.
The book is written in third person limited, following Azalea for the most part, but also giving us insight into her Uncle Fabian, and Mage Torin Dumont, one of her love interests in the book. Like with the scenes, the book made it clear who these new characters were from Azalea’s perspective before switching to them, so we weren’t thrown off at all with the introduction of a new character. The style of the writing was also very straightforward and clear, which I appreciate as there was a lot of information to be gained in this introduction to the world (like most magic school stories). This book uses an entirely new magic system using elemers, a combination dagger and key which mages use to cut into alternate dimensions (either Echo or Shadow) to draw magic from. The reader is learning all of this right along with Azalea, who is just coming into her true power. Meanwhile, she is taking online university courses, and spending time secretly poring over the Shadow Atlas, trying to find a way to bring her father back.
I’d say that as a character, Azalea’s okay, but as a person, I didn’t really like her. I suppose it’s because we’re so different. I’m horrible at keeping secrets from people I trust; honestly, I think I overshare, so I don’t relate to how many secrets she keeps from everyone around her, all the while snooping to figure out everyone else. She even becomes angry at Torin because he is secretive about his past, despite it being none of her business, whereas the secrets she’s keeping can be argued to relate to him directly; there is no reciprocity there, which I don’t appreciate. Furthermore, she wants to bring her father back from the dead, despite the practice being incredibly dangerous and illegal. I also cannot relate to this, perhaps because no one close to me has died violently nor suddenly, nor would they want to be brought back from the dead if it were possible. Since I’m in no hurry to know this pain, I may never understand her urgency or determination, but I felt it wasn’t thoroughly expressed to those readers who don’t share Azalea’s experiences. It didn’t build much about their relationship, since he was already dead by the time the book began, and the first scene we get of him is him asking her to revive him from the dead, which he would know full well is dangerous and illegal; not something a father should be asking his daughter, in my opinion!
Otherwise, she is a great protagonist. She sticks her nose in places it doesn’t belong, and she wants to do right by the mistakes she makes throughout the book. She is a bit standoffish with the others at the school at first, but she makes friends along the way with the cast of others around her: Danni, Maiken, Torin, Erik, Evangeline, and more. I would’ve liked to spend a bit more time getting to know the other characters aside from the two main love interests for Azalea, but it makes sense for a book of this genre.
I’m still not clear about the reasoning behind Erik being such a jerk at first, only to have a 180 change in his behaviour that was so out of place that it was even mentioned by the characters in the book. The reasoning was that he was recovering from burnout, but it felt insufficient to me. Nonetheless, I enjoyed his growth from the beginning of the book to the end, and I think he is a much better character now.
The quality of the writing wasn’t the best I’ve read, but above average. I would recommend another pass-through by a copyeditor, mainly because of the numerous comma splices and a few mistreated verbs I found in the work that couldn’t be explained away by an author’s “style”.
I feel like the beginning of the book was rather slow, but as it went on, the pacing sped up where it needed to, and I wasn’t at all bored as the chapters went on. I hardly felt the length of the work by the end, as a few mysteries were woven into the narrative that I was eager to learn the truth about—to see if I was right, which I was (yay!).
Since this book was downloaded from BookSirens, I had only a PDF copy, and unfortunately, I wasn’t able to use the Read Aloud function because of how it was formatted, so I went about it the old-fashioned way: by reading in my head. This slowed my pace a bit at the beginning, which I admit may have affected my perception of it, but as I got used to it again, my reading sped up to an enjoyable pace.
When I download a Free Review book, I’m not usually inclined to read the rest of a series, but I am with this book. I want to know what happens next, so I will definitely be requesting book 2: Apprentice, and I highly recommend this book to lovers of urban fantasy and magic schools (specifically magic university).
I received a free copy of this book and am willingly leaving a review.