Review: The Shadow Land / by Madeleine

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Note: Top Shelf Text was provided with a copy of this text by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Let me start by saying that Elizabeth Kostova is one author that I'm loyal to, so when I heard that she was releasing a new novel this spring, I jumped at the chance to get my hands on an advanced copy. Kostova has only written two books before The Shadow Land, and I loved both of them (you can read my review of The Swan Thieves here). In my experience, Kostova is most well-known for The Historian, a sweeping novel of the Ottoman Empire and the original Dracula, and just one of the books I recommend frequently as a great October read. I read that one in high school for a summer reading assignment and was floored by the intricacy of both the historical detail and her plot. So when it came to reading The Shadow Land, my expectations were high.

This is where my disclaimer comes in. I think it's important to note -- before I get into the why's -- that not every book is suited to every reader. In this case, I recognize that this book might be captivating for some readers, but I was not the right reader. Or, I picked it up at the wrong time. Either way, I got through the 500 pages only to feel totally disappointed.

I saw another reviewer say that the plot point that launched the adventure in this novel was unbelievable, and that the incohesion throughout the book really came back to that inciting event. I have to agree with that evaluation and add even more, because this book fell so flat for me.

First, we have a main character with a trauma in her past. I thought that trauma was really interesting, but it only came into play a few times throughout the book and in a way that left me (and the character, I assume) without any closure. Second, we have a very strange kick-off: a girl arrives in Bulgaria and accidentally takes the luggage belonging to a handsome man after having a momentary interaction on the front steps of a hotel. She then goes on a quest to return the luggage to him (mind you, a multi-day, multi-city quest, with a stranger) and ends up being followed by some unidentified but nefarious source who is threatening everyone they come into contact with. Sound confusing? It was. Not to mention that there was absolutely no explanation for why they were being chased all over the country until about 90% of the way through the book. I pushed myself to finish the novel just so I could make sure that we actually found out what was going on at the end.

I won't say much else, because if you're going to read it then you yourself might find it very compelling and enjoyable. Though I'm a big fan of the author, this fell flat for me in almost every way -- characters, setting, conflict, and even the resolution. And though I highly recommend her other works, I won't be recommending this to fellow readers.

This title will be released on April 11, 2017.

Bottom-Line Rating: 2/5

  • Title: The Shadow Land
  • Author: Elizabeth Kostova
  • Publisher: Ballatine Books
  • Price: $18 to pre-order on Amazon
  • ISBN: 0345527860
  • Format: E-book
  • Source: Net Galley