Game of Shadows
By Erika Lewis
Publisher: Tor Books
Ethan Makkai thought that seeing ghosts was the worst of his problems. Between his ethereal gift and life with a single mother hell-bent on watching his every move, he feels imprisoned. When Ethan sees a chance to escape, to leave the house by himself for the first time in his life, he seizes it, unaware that this first taste of freedom will cost him everything.
Ethan is thrown into a strange and eerie world, like nothing he’s ever seen. He’s assaulted by dive-bombing birds and rescued by a stranger who claims to be his bodyguard. His apartment is trashed, and his mother is kidnapped to a place Ethan never knew existed—a hidden continent called Tara.
Travelling to Tara in search of his mother, Ethan discovers that everything he knows about his life is a lie. His mother is royalty. His father is not dead. His destiny is likely to get him killed.
Confronted by a vicious sorcerer determined to destroy the Makkai family, Ethan must garner strength from his gift and embrace his destiny if he’s going to save his mother and all the people of Tara, including the beautiful girl he’s fallen for.
Game of Shadows originally lured me in with a promise of fantasy and mythology. It also seemed to be offering a nice dash of sword and sorcery which I can never turn down. Needless to say, I cracked the spine with a certain amount of enthusiasm and hesitation. I believe we are all somewhat guilty of over hyping titles to discover that they are not what we anticipate. So when I am truly excited, it can begin as an awkward encounter.. I want to love them, but I am afraid. Books are very much like real life relationships in that aspect for me. I have been burned. So what is my current relationship status with Game of Shadows now that we have come to know one another? Complicated but rewarding.
Ethan Makkai is not your typical teenage boy. He lacks in social skills due to a couple good reasons. A) He sees ghosts. Not always a great conversation starter. B). His single mother is overbearing. He cannot even walk to school without her. In fact, school is pretty much the only time that Ethan has to himself and being that he isn’t exactly fitting in these day, it is less than pleasant on most accounts. Life for Ethan is just less than stellar.
Tired of living under his mother’s scrupulous eye, Ethan seizes a chance one morning to dash off to school alone while she is changing. This turns out to be a horrible decision as he soon finds himself the center of a resident bully’s unwanted attention that starts a chain reaction of events, forever altering his life and all he has known.
After being rescued by Captain Cornelius Bartlett who “claims” to be family, Ethan discovers his mother is missing. His search for her lands him in Tara where he is about to uncover some very hidden family secrets. Oh you know, things that include his bloodline being royalty and his father not actually being dead. Now caught up in a whirlwind of unbelievable events, saving his mother will depend on his ability to accept his “gift” and challenging his own courage and strength.
Ethan’s character was quirky and honest. He exhibited a raw sense of sarcasm and humor that one would easily expect from a teenage boy.
“Reluctantly, Ethan looked down. He wore a dingy white tee that had a picture of a green food truck being eaten by an enormous pig with the words JURASSIC PORK hanging over it. Idiot.”
Connecting with him was almost instantaneous and I found myself genuinely enjoying him. He was endearing and sincere. His determination to save his mother against all odds (and they were against him) only added to his appeal as a protagonist. We watched him grow, thereby further establishing a solid sense of connection.
The entire entourage surrounding Ethan played out perfectly. Emotions and interactions were all appropriate, creating a truly viable ensemble that fed off of one another. If there were a slight weakness, it would probably be Sawney Bean our villain. I expected a touch more from his character given that he was established as a powerful and lethal magician. However, I didn’t struggle greatly with his lack of show per say. I felt that this is something we have only just touched on within this first book and it has been left open for greater possibilities in the next.
The world construction is executed excellently, offering continuous glimpses into a land equally dark at times and fantastical. We are introduced to various landscapes within Tara that have been inhabited by many magical races including sorcerers, druids, brownies and at one time Celtic Gods and Goddesses after a lost battle in Ireland thousands of years prior to our story. There are rich elements of Celtic mythology and Irish phrases that all contribute heavily to the story and create a unique and engaging environment that invite the reader to explore and seek out more. And rejoice as we are handed a nice map and glossary to accompany us on this adventure!
Erika Lewis sets a pace that gradually increases as the journey unfolds and never wavers. She uses a well-balanced blend culture and language that while complex never overwhelms. She effortlessly captivates, promises and delivers.
Game of Shadows is a hard book for me to summarize. On one hand it felt like YA Fantasy because it is appropriate and safe for a YA audience, but on the other is delivered something so luxurious and full of depth, that it is sure delight beyond younger fans. I can honestly say that if I had to sum this up in one word, it would FUN! This is a very promising and exciting debut to what I believe will be an incredible series.
* I would like to thank Tor Publishing for providing me with this copy and opportunity. This review is of my own, honest and unbiased opinion.