Review: Circle of Shadows by Evelyn Skye

By Tash Gream

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Sora and Daemon are taiga, defenders of the Empress and soul-bonded friends. Upon completing their training, the pair are sent to a far off town to investigate strange occurrences and report back to their superiors. Instead of being excited, they resent their quest as the country has been peaceful for the past 10 years.

 

Their opinions change however, when they stumble upon a hidden camp of soldiers who seem to worship the man who brought their country to its knees. Upon reporting back, the pair are doubted and decide to take the matter into their own hands. Can putting themselves in peril save their Empress?

Having read Skye's first duology, The Crown's Game, I was wholeheartedly on board for this, her latest novel (also going to be a duology - I feel a trend starting...). Based around a world whereby ninjas (the Taiga) who use hand magic and weapons defend the Empress, it ticked all my boxes. I mean, who doesn't love a ninja tale.

In Skye's world of Kichona, the Taiga are joined in pairs by gemina, a type of soul bonding, enabling them to feel each others emotions at all times, creating a better pairing in battle. They can then 'shut down' this bond voluntarily to keep their partner out, an idea a found a little strange but hey, everyone puts up mental walls so why the hell not. Basically the Taiga are this novels equivalent of that druid in World of Warcraft, who absolutely owned everyone in PvP prior to being nerfed after Pandaria expansion released. They are OP and bad-arse, the toughest and insurmountable barrier to the Empress's safety.

Speaking of the Empress, her name is Aki and she is cute and golden haired and helpless but also sass and power and a complete conundrum. She battled her brother Gin in the Blood Rift and won at the age of 15. Although she doesn't have a large amount of content, she was probably my favourite character because tradition, what tradition??

 

Now the story revolves around Sora aka Spirit and her gemina Daemon aka Wolf and their sneaky escape from the royal city when no one believes that there is a rebellion in the hills at the bottom of the tiger-shaped island they call home. During the events that unfold, both have secrets that unfold and they keep from each other. Given the fact they are soul bonded it felt a little strange but I just went with it because its a fantasy. The pair are both feisty and stubborn, making them the perfect protagonists for the tale.

Gemina-bonded Fairy and Broomstick - yes these are actual names used - get left behind to cover Sora (seriously every time her name is said I can only envisage Kingdom Hearts's hero) and Wolf's flight and are all things friend goals. They are smart, resourceful and experts at helping their missing friends elude the notice of the Society until the time is right. I absolutely LOVED Fairy to be brutally honest and she probably comes in as my second favourite character.

Gin and his Ryuu minions round out the villain side of the team; through the use of magic, he keeps those who would otherwise oppose him under control. He is snarky and mean, determined to get revenge on his sister because what else are twins for other than mutually assured destruction.

 

As with her previous works, Skye has woven a world which is so perfectly thought out the audience can't help but fall head over heels for the surroundings. With lush forests and sparkling cities, busy seaports and arid deserts, the reader can easily envisage their environments and submerse themselves fully in the narrative.

 

Now the story, while a good one, could have probably been cut slightly shorter. At just over 450 pages, there were points at which i found myself getting a little bored due to the over-explanation of a large number of events. But then at other points I was hopelessly lost. One of the largest of these was in relation to the Blood Rift. Both Aki and Gin refer to the events on multiple occasions but then don't actually explain what happened. It was a little like a book had been missed somewhere.

 

As a whole, Circle of Shadows was an enjoyable read. It pressed all the buttons of those with a fantasy loving heart with it lush imagery and generally well flowing story. At times it stagnated a little but quickly got back on track. By the end, I was questioning what I thought I knew and am now so excited for Cloak of Night.Having recently read her other novels, CoS held its own against a duology that I absolutely adored despite its critics. Its a 4.5/5 star read for me.

 

Circle of Shadows is available from Amazon, Book Depository, and other good book retailers.

Synopsis | Goodreads

A thrilling new fantasy series full of magic and betrayal—from Evelyn Skye, New York Times bestselling author of the Crown’s Game series.

Sora can move as silently as a ghost and hurl throwing stars with lethal accuracy. Her gemina, Daemon, can win any physical fight blindfolded and with an arm tied around his back. They are apprentice warriors of the Society of Taigas—marked by the gods to be trained in magic and the fighting arts to protect the kingdom of Kichona.

As their graduation approaches, Sora and Daemon look forward to proving themselves worthy of belonging in the elite group—but in a kingdom free of violence since the Blood Rift Rebellion many years ago, it’s been difficult to make their mark.

So when Sora and Daemon encounter a strange camp of mysterious soldiers while on a standard scouting mission, they decide the only thing to do to help their kingdom is to infiltrate the group. Taking this risk will change Sora’s life forever—and lead her on a mission of deception that may fool everyone she’s ever loved.

Love, spies, and adventure abound as Sora and Daemon unravel a complex web of magic and secrets that might tear them—and the entire kingdom—apart forever.