Published: February 28, 2017
Publisher: Tor Books
Pages: 400 (Hardcover)
My Rating: 3.5/5.0
Ethan Makkai thought that seeing ghosts was the worst of his problems. Between his ethereal gift and life with a single mother hell-bent on watching his every move, he feels imprisoned. When Ethan sees a chance to escape, to leave the house by himself for the first time in his life, he seizes it, unaware that this first taste of freedom will cost him everything.
Ethan is thrown into a strange and eerie world, like nothing he’s ever seen. He’s assaulted by dive-bombing birds and rescued by a stranger who claims to be his bodyguard. His apartment is trashed, and his mother is kidnapped to a place Ethan never knew existed—a hidden continent called Tara.
Travelling to Tara in search of his mother, Ethan discovers that everything he knows about his life is a lie. His mother is royalty. His father is not dead. His destiny is likely to get him killed.
Confronted by a vicious sorcerer determined to destroy the Makkai family, Ethan must garner strength from his gift and embrace his destiny if he’s going to save his mother and all the people of Tara, including the beautiful girl he’s fallen for.
I’ve had Game of Shadows on my radar for a few months now, so naturally I jumped at the chance to review this when Tor offered a copy. Game of Shadows is a Celtic inspired fantasy full of exciting content and plenty of action to go around, plus it’s perfect for a broad age range of readers. Ethan Makkai is not your usual teenager. He can see ghosts, speak to them even, and his mother is a little more overprotective than most other parents for this very reason. Other than these two things his life is pretty normal… until his mother is kidnapped and he ends up in a land called Tara, which is hidden away from the rest of the world by magic.
As I mentioned previously, Game of Shadows is action-packed. From the very first pages of this book there is always something happening that is highly dramatic, of the utmost importance, or life threatening and honestly, I was a little frustrated by it. There is such a thing as too much action and not enough world building. Ethan Makkai arrives in Tara and is told he’s king, he is introduced to his living family members and promptly runs off with two people he basically doesn’t know in a land he is ignorant of to save his mother. Completely unbelievable. Ethan clearly doesn’t have a shred of common sense and heeds no advice unless it is in line with what he already wants to do. YOU CAN’T JUST DO THESE THINGS. Unless it’s fantasy. Also, by the end of the book I was about 90% sure that the sequel will have a love triangle.
Other than this rather irritating aspect, I thought Game of Shadows was an enjoyable book. The Celtic mythology is really cool (though I’m only familiar with the basics) and anything with magic and legendary weapons is okay in my opinion! My favorite character ended up being Lily Niles who is not only intelligent and capable, but also a newly awakened magic user. Ethan’s cousin, Christian Makkai, was also a likable character though I thought it strange that he was entirely okay with Ethan having the gift of seeing spirits, thus marking him as the new king of Landover. Ethan was rash, but clearly had good intentions in all of his escapades. Runyun Cooper was a grumpy old woodsman, skilled in his craft but not so skilled in making personal connections.
I think Game of Shadows shows promise and it would translate well into most other forms of media, from a graphic novel to a tv series. Though it was picked up by Tor, I think it would have been more appropriate under the Tor Teen label, as the characters are all teenagers and the content wasn’t particularly graphic in any sense. This book definitely has a certain amount of cover appeal, which is what initially drew me to check it out in the first place. Overall, an entertaining read but perhaps not something I would have purchased on my own. I think I’ll be keeping tabs on future installments to see how everything plays out!