I didn’t go into this one expecting much based on some of the other reviews but I was surprised and actually really enjoyed The Shadows Between Us. Here’s my (mostly spoiler free) take…
Alessandra, in short, is a bit of an unhinged snit. She’s the second daughter and grossly overlooked (read: neglected) by her father. Her mother passed away shortly after Alessandra was born so she was mostly left to her own devices; her father only caring about how much of a bride price he can get for her. Craving any bit of affection, she began her first love affair when she was way too young and, as most of these early trysts go, she truly believed that she was in love. Unfortunately for her, she was just being used for her innocence. Once she learned the guy planned to throw her over for another woman, she lost it and killed him in a fit of rage.
Burying her secret and heart, along with the body, she vowed to never get that close to another man again. Love was for suckers. She promised herself that she’d use her feminine wiles to get what she learned she really wanted – Power and recognition. Collecting wealth via gifts from her string of lovers, she eventually sets her sights on the King. Her plan? Woo him, the same as the others, get him to marry her, then kill him so she can be the most powerful person in the kingdom. But what’s that about best laid plans?
Enter Kalias, also known as the Shadow King. He is not only an orphan but also the latest to inherit the family curse – Shadows. His older brother, the one that should have been King, died in a freak accident. Then his parents were murdered shortly after and their killers have yet to be caught. Kalias trusts no one. He pushed his friends away and enacts a law that says if anyone gets within 5 feet of him, they’ll be sentenced to death immediately. The law is not without it’s reasons though. The shadows surrounding him allow him to be immortal. A ghost that can solidify or drift away at will. So long as he doesn’t touch anyone, he can’t be killed. For touching someone, skin to skin, makes him vulnerable to that person forever. Giving up a real, human connection in exchange for guaranteed survival when assassins are everywhere? It seems like a fair trade and an easy one to keep. That is until his council starts pressuring him to marry and produce an heir as soon as possible.
After Alessandra catches Kalias’s eye at a ball, she thinks she’s cleared the first hurdle of her plan. But instead, Kalias proposes an alliance so they can each get what they want. Having no intention to marry or father children, Kalias sees Alessandra as a means to an end. He’ll appear to be interested in her so the council will leave him alone and Alessandra will have the attention and status that she always craved by being the King’s chosen woman. For her part, Alessandra isn’t completely content with the offer. However, still planning to make him fall for her so she can kill him, she agrees to the ruse.
Only, there’s something different about this secretive and unaffected mark. His distance and sexual disinterest makes it easy for her to let her guard down while also tickling her competitive side. She’s never been dismissed so out of hand and it irks but also intrigues her. Despite herself, she begins opening up to him and they start a real and tenuous friendship. They accept each other, faults and ugly deeds and everything else. After a while, killing him isn’t what she has in mind at all. But how can she know if he feels the same? Surely he wouldn’t give up immortality for her.
What I loved about this story was that both characters were damaged, morally grey, cut throats. Kalias had no qualms about killing or torturing. Even in front of Alessandra, he loses his cool and kills one his guards on the spot. His anger and distrust was on display and he used it like armor. Alessandra was equally hard hearted. Nothing and no one was going to stop her from getting what she wanted. Smart and treacherous, she used these gifts to hide how caring she can actually be if she chooses.
Furthermore, the discussions around a woman’s worth not being between her legs had me smiling too. Women in history that have been intelligent enough to weaponize sex for their own gain has always had me in awe. But really, why is there still such antiquated notions about women and what they choose to do with their bodies? Just because a woman loves sex for the sake of having sex, or takes multiple partners with no intention to marry, that doesn’t make her a slut (or “harlot” as her sister called Alessandra). Just because a woman wants to wait until marriage to have sex, that doesn’t make her a prude or a tease. And no one should get decide when she’s ready to move on to another romantic relationship except for her. No one bats an eye when these situations are made about men. It should be the same for women too.
So why 4.5 and not 5, if I liked it so much? In short, I didn’t feel the ages matched the characters and their histories. I think it would have been better and more believable if they were in their early or mid 20s instead of the 18 and 19 years that they’re reported to be in the story. Even throwing out the fantasy portion of magic and a mostly modern kingdom with patriarchal ideas, the way Alessandra and Kalias acted didn’t read teenager to me.
I would recommend this to fans of enemies to lovers, stabby lead female characters, and addicts of Taylor Swift’s Willow. 🙂