Cloaked in Shadow by Ben Alderson
Published: December 18th, 2017
Genre: Fantasy, YA
Zacriah Trovirn is concerned with two things in life: hunting and dodging Petrer, the boy who broke his heart. Heartbreak becomes a distant concern when Zacriah is taken to the Elven capital of Thessolina, where he is forced into King Dalior’s new legion of shapeshifters. But Zacriah isn’t a shapeshifter. In truth, he doesn’t know what he is. Zacriah joins forces with new friends and they soon find themselves embroiled in a clash between the three Elven continents. With war looming on the horizon, Zacriah must learn to use his latent power to fight and protect those he loves before they are destroyed.
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*Amazon: Cloaked in Shadow (The Dragori)
Like the buildings in Thalor, the palace was made from alabaster stone, glowing in the limited light from the moon and stars.
“Monsters. I want their heads on pikes; I want to wash the very ground with their blood.”
Zacriah Trovirn and many other elves from his village are taken to the capital of the Kingdom of Thessolina for reasons unbeknownst to them. When all becomes clear his world is thrown upside down. Someone is completely pillaging elves of their lives in villages across the kingdom and King Dailor wants to put an end to these killers once and for all. He calls on Elves across the kingdom to join his military because some of them have something special that they can do. They are shapeshifters. But Zacriah is not he has magic inside of him but he doesn’t know what it is and will do anything to hide. He is soon thrown into a game of lies and political warfare. Friends become enemies, enemies become friends and he teams up with some unlikely people to figure what is truly happening. As secrets are revealed and Zac learns how to use his power and what he is things get more dangerous for him and his companions. War is brewing and nothing is as it seems. I really loved the plot of this story. As a fantasy fan, one of my favorite tropes has to be the whole kingdom in turmoil and lies and half-truths. It’s like a puzzle and each page I turn reveals more and more. I have not read a whole story based on elves so this was especially exciting for me. What made this even better though was it wasn’t just elves. Ben Alderson treated this as if you were reading a fantasy about humans except the only “human race” is elves. We got a class system, we got different genders, different sexualities, some had no powers, some had powers, and some powers were stronger than others. It was a fantasy through and through. The pace kept up really nicely. I loved all the plot twists they were fun and surprising. It had some intense moments that played out nicely.
“…I still doubt myself. But she would tell me that our only enemy is within and once you overcome it, you can conquer anything.”
Most of the story took place in the Elven capital of Thessolina which was Olderim but we got to see different parts of it, we also saw different villages and in the end, we got to see another kingdom. The writing was nice and vivid for a debut and rich in detail. The world was very elaborate and ornate. It was truly magical to visualize and I felt as awestruck as Zac at moments thinking of some of the settings he was in. The author had some stunning prose and great dialogue between the characters. As far as world-building goes the author definitely can only go up from here. I think he will only get better and better as he allows his mind to truly dive into the world of fantasy. I can’t wait to see what book two will have in store for me.
“Because for the first time in a long time, I have met someone who treats me as an equal on all levels. I have experienced and shared things with you I thought I never would. I am still not sure why, but I know more than anything else that I would do whatever you asked of me.”
Zacriah was an interesting male character and I am excited to see more of him in book two. He wages this constant inner battle with himself about his power but as the reader and Zac learn he is truly a force to be reckoned with. He is not a pushover though and very early on we see him defend himself. I loved how he wasn’t your typical alpha male type of character. He isn’t the weakest link but he knows his strength. He often commented about the ladies in the book and their strength compared to his. He was very in touch with his feelings and if my man needed to cry he cried. Prince Hadrian was a gem and reading his novella Prince of Flames was extra exciting because we got into his mind. He isn’t fond of how things are being done in his kingdom by his father the king. He dearly misses his mother and longs to be a good king to his people. He is a kind and funny man and I die when he calls Zac ‘Petal.’ Nyah was a friend to Zac and a character I can’t wait to learn more about. She is fierce and strong and they immediately hit it off. She is loyal and I loved how she was written. The antagonistic people in the story are all people who you don’t assume at first. All I will say is nothing is as it seems.
“They say that fire is nothing without the air that fuels it. You are my air, without you, I would just stop. I need you, I want you and I will get better and be there for you.”
Zac is canonically gay and it’s nice because it is not talked about. There are stories meant for that but this one he just is. It is apart of him and not a big deal. The romance was a sweet slow build. It wasn’t all angsty and earth-shattering. Not all need to be like that and this was nice because it felt so everyday normal life for a fantasy. Sometimes YA romances can be so angsty or forbidden, or we have to die and come back before we get together. This was just sweet and built from mindless/one-sided flirting and apprehension to a friendship and mutual attraction/flirting to the start to something that could blossom into more.
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