Book Review: Shadow (Kara Swanson)
“Maybe, like us, Neverland was meant to grow. It was meant to bloom more beautifully and more colorful than before.”
— Shadow, Kara Swanson
If you’ve read the first book of this duology, Dust, then you know that the story can’t be over. There has to be more. Claire and Peter and Lily’s stories aren’t done yet.
Lucky for us, Kara Swanson agreed, and the second book of the Heirs of Neverland duology, Shadow, was written.
Wrapping up loose ends in books and series is a tricky business. Let’s see how Shadow did, shall we?
Desperate to rescue Claire and the fractured Lost Boys, Peter must unravel what truly tore his dreamland apart. But with each step, he is haunted by more of his own broken memories. Not even Pan himself is what he seems.
Claire Kenton is chained to a pirate ship, watching the wreckage of Neverland rocked by tempests. When she finally finds her brother, Connor is every bit as shattered as the island. Claire may have pixie dust flowing in her veins—but the light of Neverland is flickering dangerously close to going out forever.
To rescue Neverland from the inescapable shadow, the boy who never grew up and the girl who grew up too fast will have to sacrifice the only thing they have left: each other.
Plot — ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Shadow is even tighter of a tale than Dust. It’s shorter, but by no means is it less full of plot—the twists and turns and surprises are as well-presented—or more—than the first book.
Conclusions are tricky things. I’ll confess that I wondered at times how in the world Swanson would manage to wrap up all of the loose strands she let fly in Dust and the major part of Shadow—and
yet she did it magnificently. This is one ending that will not disappoint.
Characters — ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
The Heir of Neverland characters are so vividly real, and their growth and relationships in this book were both heartbreaking and achingly beautiful. Peter’s character arc, especially, was wonderful to watch unfold.
I still don’t know how I fell in love with these characters so quickly, but I did—and Shadow undid nothing of the magic Dust laid. I felt as if I had known them for years—and, in a way, through the backstory Swanson let seep through, I had.
Peter’s struggles and growth in this book both hurt and made me ever so proud of him. This boy grows so much through these two books, and the Peter that emerged at the end made me beyond proud of him, especially since I had seen so many of his battles with himself that brought him to where he ended up.
Claire’s arc was very different than Peter’s, and, though I didn’t resonate with it quite as much, I loved seeing Peter’s Pixie-Girl grow throughout this duology. Claire went through so much in these books, and seeing how she handled it all in the end was so wonderful.
I was intrigued by the Lost Boys after reading Dust, and getting a closer look at them in Shadow was great. It hurt to watch them sometimes—they really were lost, and I could tell they were all hurting so much. These boys never had it easy in the Heirs of Neverland duology, yet their saving graces kept me silently rooting for them throughout the book.
Pacing — ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
As I mentioned above, Shadow is shorter than Dust but by no means lacking in plot or character growth. The pacing was quick and, at times, heartbreaking. At the same time, though, I always knew what was going on, and the quick progression from plot point to plot point certainly didn’t feel rushed.
Worldbuilding and Setting — ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
For all of the talk about Neverland in Dust, actually seeing it in this book took my breath away. It was both broken by all the selfishness and pain and yet brimming with hope and remnants of pixie dust among the darkness.
I fell in love with Neverland when I read the original Peter Pan, and Swanson’s representation of Peter’s Never Neverland didn’t disappoint.
Swanson mastered the first-person/present tense narrative in these books, and she thrust me so quickly into Peter and Claire’s thoughts that I felt as if I was three people at once—myself and these characters. The writing craft was wonderful.
Shadow definitely had some darker tones than Dust, but Swanson handled them with grace and a clear line between right and wrong. There’s a lot of grief and brokenness in this book, even more than in Dust, but I’d still be comfortable handing it to a pre-teen. Swanson’s strong faith in the light
of Jesus Christ was clearly shown, despite Dust and Shadow not being explicitly Christian.
Reading Shadow was a blessing, even though it ached to see all the brokenness. The healing that came with it, though, was worth it.
Shadow is a masterpiece, and it wrapped up the loose strands of Dust with a natural ease, although it stayed realistic and fully showed the after-effects of grief and selfishness.
It took me forever to get around to reading Dust and Shadow, but once I did, I could hardly believe I had never read them before. They’re treasures, and I can’t recommend them highly enough.
What was your favorite thing about Shadow? Did you like the first or second Heirs of Neverland duology better?