I love worldbuilding. I love books that transport me to a different time and a different place, creating a world that is similar in some ways, but also completely unlike my own world. I like it even better when that world is portrayed through a character’s eyes rather than dumped on me. Sarah Mensinga’s Shimmerdark did exactly that, and my goodness, what a great book.
1. Thoughts on the plot
This book follows Xylia, a shimmerling who was the apprentice to the Great Drae of her country, only she’d been shipwrecked on an island for seven years. Finally rescued, she returns home to discover that she’s been replaced. Now, Xylia must venture to the outer reaches of her home to work as an Authenticator, someone who identifies shimmerlings with enough power to serve. Only, Xylia asks one too many questions and gets herself into a world of trouble. With magic and mystery, she must now venture back to the city to figure out just what is going on.
This plot seems fairly simply on the surface—a girl trying to regain what she has lost, until she stumbles on some secrets people want buried—but oh my goodness is it far more involved and intricate than that. There is certainly intrigue, but there is also adventure, discovery, characters that move the story along in a way that I did not anticipate, and more drama, just for good measure. The plot is perfectly paced, the actions of our main character both logical and perhaps a little crazy. I never once was bored or overwhelmed, which is very impressive.
2. Thoughts on the character
Xylia is a perfect main character. She desperately wants her position back, and loves her life. But after seven years shipwrecked, she has to come to terms with the fact that she has changed and maybe the world has, too. She’s intelligent without being overbearing in her smarts, capable and independent. Her development through the story is subtle, bu also a central piece of the story. I liked Xylia a lot, and I think she was great fun to read.
I will say, I wish there was a little more about her relationship with the people she was shipwrecked with. The second half of the story expands on those relationships a bit more, but by the end, I almost feel like there needs to be a sequel to explore more of that, and also the potentially world-changing mysteries that are hinted at. It’s not necessary; the plot was wrapped up nicely and there was no great cliffhanger, but I just wanted a little more.
3. Favourite part
I think Glowy Pony is probably my favourite. That snark! Coupled with that name, there’s just so much entertainment to be had.
Finding a critique is difficult for this book. The prose was smooth and well-written. The characters were all great. The dramatic tension was at just the right level to keep me involved without being overwhelming. I think my point mentioned in section two, wanting a little more of the relationships Xylia had explored, is probably my only critique, and that could just be my desire for more of this world.
Overall, I would say that Shimmerdark is an excellent book with a great world, dramatic adventure and characters to root for.