Silver Shadows

Silver ShadowsYou know you’re excited about a book’s impending release when you’ve literally instigated a countdown. And you’re emailing a friend and co-fan who happens to be in Europe for four months, telling her if she’s in doubt about returning to Australia, rest assured: the book will help smooth her potentially bumpy I’m-not-in-Europe-anymore arrival.

Silver Shadows, Book Five in Richelle Mead’s Vampire Academy* spin-off Bloodlines, has just been released (Still with me? The series and spin-off and book titles can be confusing and I have to admit I still refer to everything as a Vampire Academy book).

It picks up where Book Four left off—if you haven’t read this yet, now’s the time to do the reading equivalent of lalalalala, AKA stop reading this blog post). That is, Alchemist extraordinaire Sydney Sage has been kidnapped and imprisoned by the Alchemists in an underground ‘re-education’ facility. Moroi lover Adrian Ivashkov is losing his mind with grief and frustration as he tries to use mental-health-destabilising spirit find out where she’s being kept.

With Sydney trapped in a seemingly-impossible-to-escape prison, I truly expected Rose and Dimitri to feature heavily in this tale (in truth, I expect that every book). But Mead surprised me and again kept them to cameos—she really does seem to mean what she said about being done with following their stories. That said, the way the book finishes has me convinced that the next one will surely see them come to the fore (in truth, I’ve thought that every book too).

The Silver Shadows contains less sassy repartee than previous books, but that’s both because people are trapped alone in various locations and in their heads, which makes the requirement of having someone to trade repartee with rather troublesome. Besides, the subject matter—torture, prejudice, and mental health and alcohol issues—makes for some reasonably bleak reading. In the most gripping, tale-inhaling manner, of course.

There are a few moments, though, such as when Sydney first encounters her uptight, Type A roommate, AKA ‘the Sydney Sage of re-education’. There’s also some banter about which car Adrian and Marcus should take on a roadtrip to find Sydney: a Mustang or a ‘lame yet highly fuel-efficient’ Prius that would require fewer stops and, therefore, hasten their mission.

The book touches on some more adult themes. And by adult, I mean challenging, life-changing stuff such as battling deteriorating mental health and grappling with feelings-suppressing alcohol addiction.

Vampire AcademyIt handles it in a way that’s respectful, demystifying, and de-stigmatising, which is all you could ask of a young-adult text. (Forgive me for getting my responsible adult hat on, but hopefully the young adults and not-so-young adults reading the series will feel a little less hesitant to ask for help sometime if they ever need it.)

Overall, though, not a lot happens in Silver Shadows. At least, not compared with other Vampire Academy slash Bloodlines books. But the tension around Sydney’s circumstances and whether Adrian, who’s self-destructing, will be able to hold it together, propel the story tensely forward. It’s also setting the scene for a bigger shebang, which Mead cruelly (and by cruelly I mean niftily) drops on us in final words on the final pages.

Which means that, having inhaled the book that answered the year-long what’s-going-to-happen-to-Sydney-in-re-education-camp suspense, that suspense has now been replaced with what’s-going-to-happen-with-[I’m not going to issue that spoiler so soon after its release—suffice to say, the plot twist and its ramifications are big] agony.

What I am going to say is that Mead had better been well on her way to writing Book Six. Let the countdown begin.

*As a side note, the covers continue to be terrible. I’m glad someone’s finally shifting the Vampire Academy titles to a more generic VA. They need to do similarly with the Bloodlines series. Pouting generic blondes and brunettes don’t cut it. For starters, Sydney Sage wouldn’t pout lustily at a camera…

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Fiona Crawford

Fiona Crawford is a freelance writer, editor, blogger, proofreader, and voracious reader. She regularly appears as a book reviewer in Australian BOOKSELLER+PUBLISHER magazine. Fiona is also (unfairly) known as the Book Burglar due to her penchant for buying family members—then permanently borrowing—books she wants to read herself.