Destiny and darkness collide in Reign of Shadows, the newest fantasy novel from New York Times bestselling author Sophie Jordan. Released on February 9th, 2016, Reign of Shadows promised to be a romantic, sweeping new fantasy series.
Seventeen years ago, an eclipse cloaked the kingdom of Relhok in perpetual darkness. In the chaos, an evil chancellor murdered the king and queen and seized their throne. Luna, Relhok’s lost princess, has been hiding in a tower ever since. Luna’s survival depends on the world believing she is dead. But that doesn’t stop Luna from wanting more. When she meets Fowler, a mysterious archer braving the woods outside her tower, Luna is drawn to him despite the risk. When the tower is attacked, Luna and Fowler escape together. But this world of darkness is more treacherous than Luna ever realized. With every threat stacked against them, Luna and Fowler find solace in each other. But with secrets still unspoken between them, falling in love might be their most dangerous journey yet.
I was hesitant about picking up Reign of Shadows, but the gorgeous cover (which is actually a photo of a physical scene) finally convinced me to pick it up. That, and the fact that I was able to snag it at an amazing price from The Book Outlet! And realistically, I’m glad I waited – while this book wasn’t bad, it was definitely lack luster.
Reign of Shadows is, at its core, a mediocre retelling of Rapunzel – featuring a princess who has grown up in a tower, hidden from the kingdom she was born to rule, only to leave it when the daring male love interest arrives. However, in Reign of Shadows, Luna was not kidnapped – she was spirited away from the capital by two caring guardians following the massacre of her family by the man who has now declared himself King. In addition, the entire story takes places in a kingdom that has been cloaked in darkness for Luna’s whole life – some sort of eternal eclipse.
Now, the premise sounds interesting enough, but unfortunately, Jordan simply failed to deliver. Nothing about this book was necessarily bad, it just wasn’t good. Luna and Fowler’s relationship didn’t just feel forced – it felt false. Fowler goes from despising Luna – despising having to take care of anyone else – to being head-over-heels in love with her. And Luna? Well, she fell in love with Fowler immediately – love at first sight (despite the fact she blind). That, partnered with Luna’s affinity towards woodland animals and her unrelenting kindness made this feel more like a children’s book catering towards Disney fans, rather than a proper retelling.
Unfortunately, Jordan not only made the romantic relationship between Luna and Fowler feel goofy (as discussed above), but the rest of the story an plot also just felt somewhat childish and poorly delivered.
Now, back to what I said about the premise of the story being interesting – a lost princess, a handsome savior and a journey across a continent cloaked in eternal night and filled with fearsome creatures. And the mystery of why the new King took it upon himself to kill the old royal family – Luna’s parents – on the night of her birth. Beyond this mention of actions – very far in the past – Jordan pretty much fails to deliver any action, leaving the story feeling pretty lack luster. There’s a few skirmishes with zombie-like monsters and giant bats, as well as some bounty hunters, but generally speaking, there was no real climax, and at the end of the book, I just felt like I had missed something – like there ought to be more. But there wasn’t.
Finally, Luna’s character is just a bit ridiculous. It really felt like Jordan added Luna’s blindness after writing the rest of the story, since not only does this girl fall in love at first *sight*, but she is also able to maneuver the forest more competently than Fowler (despite being both blind and having limited experience int he world outside the tower), and seemingly complete all other tasks with no problem, despite her lack of sight. I don’t mean to question the abilities of the blind – I am well aware there’s many, many things those who are visually impaired are capable of doing, and doing much better than a sighted person might realize – but how Jordan portrayed Luna simply wasn’t realistic. In this case, Luna’s blindness felt like a plot device meant to evoke sympathy, while completely disrespecting the actual needs and abilities of those who are visually disabled.
Overall, Reign of Shadows had an interesting premise, but fell disappointingly short as Sophie Jordan failed to deliver any real action. Furthermore, Lune was completely disappointing as a protagonist, and her blindness felt like an after thought more likely to reproduce incorrect notions of blindness and ableist perspectives than promote the abilities of the visually impaired (2/5).