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Sunday, January 19, 2014

Maggie is a high-school teenager who loves animals (especially her dog Mongo), and doesn't like her new step-father Val. But Maggie is far from normal. For one thing, the reason she dislikes Val is not just because he's from Oldworld or dresses terribly, but because he has too many shadows that seem to move on their own, and have too many legs or hands or other appendages, and that almost no one else can apparently see. For another thing, Maggie lives in Newworld, where magic is illegal and magic-using genes were removed two generations ago, and where there is a danger of "cohesion breaks," gaps in reality that are common enough they have their own slang term, "cobeys" - which the government handles with military teams and scientific equipment; but which just might be more of a problem than the government is letting on.

In Newworld, people have been taught to "run and report" whenever they see a cobey or a silver bug (not an actual bug, but a smaller manifestation of the same problem), and let trained teams handle it. Over the course of the story, Maggie learns that there is a lot she doesn't know - not just about the cobeys, but including that magic hasn't really been removed as thoroughly as everyone thinks.

Maggie, of course, is herself a magic user. Rather like in Sunshine and Chalice, we have another untrained magic user coming into her powers who has to figure out her own ways of doing things, and ends up doing things that other magic users would have thought impossible. She has a powerful affinity for creatures - not just her collie-mongrel Mongo, but the other animals at the shelter where she works. She eventually comes around on Val's shadows when she learns that they are creatures of a sort, gruuaa - when she first meets Hix, whom Val tells her has always been interested in and friendly towards humans. I also love that her magic manifests in her origami, a hobby she's been doing for years (as a way of connecting with the shy Japanese boy who came to their school and is now her good friend Takahiro); at times, when she's falling asleep she enters a state of flow where she becomes, in her words, "Hands Folding Paper" and can make wonderful origami creatures she couldn't make if she was paying attention more consciously. At some point, Maggie and the exotic, gorgeous foreign exchange Casimir (who overheard her best friend Jill calling her Magdag and thinks she's the prophesied mgdaga who can bind up the tears in the universe) are together in a park when what must be a cobey breaks out, and somehow with the help of Hix and paper from her square algebra book, she creates origami and manages to fold the cobey back in on itself and close it.

Shadows isn't going to upset Sunshine as my favorite McKinley book, but it was definitely a strange and enjoyable adventure. It took me a little while to get into the story, although that might be because of distractions in real life and not any fault of the book. It also seemed like the story ended too soon - although I guess that's common for a Mckinley tale; there is a whole world out there to save and our heroine is just learning that she and her friends can and should do something about it... It's too bad McKinley doesn't write sequels, because I'd be curious to see what Maggie and her friends, family, and the sizable menagerie of animals accompanying them by then end, get up to next.

Author:Robin McKinley
Date published:
Number of pages:368
Notes:ebook; gift from Mom


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