Review of The Shadow Society by Marie Rutkoski

The Shadow SocietyThe Shadow Society
By: Marie Rutkoski
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Release Date: October 16th 2012

My Rating:

I read this with Jen from Starry Eyed Revue, check out her review here. It was wonderful to not only read this together and talk over plot points but our general love for Rotkoski’s writing style.

Darcy Jones doesn’t remember anything before the day she was abandoned as a child outside a Chicago firehouse. She has never really belonged anywhere—but she couldn’t have guessed that she comes from an alternate world where the Great Chicago Fire didn’t happen and deadly creatures called Shades terrorize the human population.

Memories begin to haunt Darcy when a new boy arrives at her high school, and he makes her feel both desire and desired in a way she hadn’t thought possible. But Conn’s interest in her is confusing. It doesn’t line up with the way he first looked at her.

As if she were his enemy.

When Conn betrays Darcy, she realizes that she can’t rely on anything—not herself, not the laws of nature, and certainly not him. Darcy decides to infiltrate the Shadow Society and uncover the Shades’ latest terrorist plot. What she finds out will change her world forever . . .

In this smart, compulsively readable novel, master storyteller Marie Rutkoski has crafted an utterly original world, characters you won’t soon forget, and a tale full of intrigue and suspense.

The Story:
I was introduced to Marie Rukoski’s writing reading an advanced copy of her latest book and start to a new series, The Winner’s Curse. I loved her style and ability to create such vivid life like characters so decided on the spot that I would read anything she has written and writes in the future. I was eager to start on The Shadow Society due to its wonderful synopsis and the fact that this is a stand-alone.

As with The Winner’s Curse there were some themes Jen and I both recognized in this novel such as betrayal, secrecy and the inability for the main character to fit in with their peers. In The Shadow Society Rutkoski had a beautiful way of creating a world that felt like it was real. Her descriptions and explanations seemed so logical that I could easily believe that there were Shade’s living in an alternate universe. First off, I love that she chose something fully original as her paranormal creature. Shades are described as forms that can disappear, called ‘ghosting.’ In this universe humans and shades do not like each other and live separated. There is strong sense of segregation and prejudice all based on actions that shades had committed years prior.

I really enjoyed that Rutkoski never picks one side as either good or bad, everyone lives in the grey middle ground. You can fully understand their stance and beliefs even if you disagree with their actions. Enough history was shown throughout the course of the novel that I felt I had a pretty decent grasp on how the society got to the way it was in Darcy’s time.

Though the beginning was slower paced than the majority of the novel it still read beautifully and had me fully engaged. Towards the middle of the novel I began to wish that this was the beginning of a series rather than a stand alone because I wanted to see more of the world and characters. I would have liked the ending to be a little less neatly wrapped up but still felt that it provided the closure and action I wanted.

The Characters:
I really enjoyed learning about Darcy’s past (of what she could remember) and I felt a connection and empathy toward her and her situation. I wanted what was best for her and desired for her to excel and answer the questions regarding her past. I felt that her reactions were realistic and she rarely acted in a way that frustrated me. Her trust needed to be earned and she was loyal to her friends.

Speaking of, what a great group of secondary characters her friends were. I loved each of them and felt that they had so much more to offer than the small amount they appeared in the book. I enjoyed reading their interactions with Darcy and was pleased with how supportive and loyal they were.

Conn, our mysterious boy, was a well rounded character and it was easy for me to see why Darcy was not only attracted but intrigued with him. I enjoyed learning more about his personal past and honestly could have used many more scenes between him and Darcy. I would have loved to have read some chapters from his point of view. I felt that Rutkoski balanced his personal dilemmas beautifully with his loyalty and strength of character.

The only place that faltered in character development was within the Shadow Society. I felt that the majority of these characters felt stunted and I was pulled from the story by some of their complete 180 degree twists in personality. I’d preferred to have seen some further development and details about their motivations rather than just based on their history with the human population. With the story be confined to only the one book I could understand the lack of page space to develop each of these characters though if the book had a weakness, to me, it was here.

Final Thoughts:
Another fine example of Marie Rutkoski’s talent at creating a world that mimics our own yet with unique twists and characters that you root for and enjoy reading about. I recommend this book to anyone in the mood to read a well written paranormal adventure.



  1. says

    “I recommend this book to anyone in the mood to read a well written paranormal adventure.” And that would be me, lol! I’ve been wanting to read this for ages, and since a load of praise has been given to The Winner’s Curse, I feel like I have to read from this author before that one comes out. Great review, Kristen!

    • says

      Thank you Aimee! I did enjoy The Winner’s Curse more (it is 5 stars for me) but I really liked this one. Rutkoski’s writing style hits me very well. I hope you read it soon and enjoy it!

  2. says

    This sounds so interesting, Kristen! It kind of makes me think of South African apartheid or other modern societies with self-segregated groups. I also like to hear that the two groups are not designated as good guys and bad guys. Hopefully, I’ll be able to read my copy soon. (Soon, meaning maybe before 2016.) 🙂

    • says

      Haha, I hope you can fit it in before 2016…you and your massive TBR. I really did enjoy it and felt that the idea behind the society could be explored further in additional books. I’d like to have seen a companion novel or such.

  3. says

    I loved that there was no black and white, good and evil in this book, too…it made it more realistic — despite the paranormal aspects — because real life is more about the gray areas. Thank you so much for waiting for me to catch up so we could read this together! I liked where it ended, but I wouldn’t mind if there were more for us to read. =)

    • says

      Totally agree. So happy we read this one together. I think it was so nice to be able to chat about what was going on. I seriously just adore everything Marie does. Did you read her short story yet? Perfection.

  4. says

    Awesome review Kristen 🙂 I’m so glad you enjoyed this book. <3 I actually ordered it days ago 😀 And I cannot wait to read it as well, since I also loved The Winner's Curse. <3 I think Conn sounds like an awesome character and I can't wait to meet him. It's always good, I think, when you want more about a character 🙂

  5. says

    Well, this book certainly looks delicious. XD Not so keen on those 180 personality twists, though. In books, that kind of stuff confuses me NO end. I’ve never read any of Marie Rutkoski’s books before. And seriously? A well WRITTEN paranormal adventure? I so need this.

  6. says

    I’ve heard about the hype surrounding The Winner’s Curse, but I’ve never come across this book before. I’m glad to hear that you liked the characters for the most part. Perhaps I’ll pick this book up soon while I wait impatiently for The Winner’s Curse to come out =) Thanks for the review!

    • says

      Stephanie—let me know if you read it! I’d love to know what you end up thinking. And TWC is the type of book I want to force upon everyone I know to read. I hope you read both and love them!

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