Review| Where Shadows Lie – Allegra Pescatore

About the Book

Speak the truth.
That is what Elenor has been taught to value above all else, but when her brother dies, leaving her next in line for the Throne of Lirin, truth becomes a matter of opinion.

Stand for what is right.
Gabriel thought his years of fighting against oppression were over when he agreed to assassinate the royal family. He never expected to end up helping one of them.

As the carefully woven webs of deception surrounding Elenor and Gabriel begin to unravel, Princess and Rebel must set aside their differences and work together for the sake of the Kingdom they both love.

Meanwhile, from the rainy streets of Lirin to the scorching dunes of the Mondaer Desert, the ripples of their actions have inadvertently broken a chain of events five centuries in the making. Ancient forces move in the shadows, calling in debts and striking deals. A monster with a thousand faces fingers his knife, ready to kill, and a pair of fugitives run for their lives.

With Magic itself misbehaving and old alliances crumbling to dust, it is up to an unlikely group of friends and enemies to pick up the pieces the chosen one left behind. 

Published January, 2021
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Allegra Pescatore and I have something in common, and I didn’t even realize it until she reached out to me. It is Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome. It’s something we both live with, and I think, in a lot of ways, the experience of living with this chronic illness informs, to a certain extent, the stories we tell. What interested me in Where Shadows Lie when I first saw it, was the wheelchair-user on the cover. I’ve never seen a fantasy book with a wheelchair-user on the cover before, and, as an ambulatory wheelchair-user myself, I didn’t realize how much I needed to see that until I actually saw it. 

At the end of the day, disabled people deserve to be in stories too. We can be main characters, front and center. We can save the day. We exist, and we should be in books. It really is as simple as that. And having that kind of personal connection with not just the author, but the character front and center on the cover of this work, really profoundly moved me to an extent I doubt the author will ever realize.

Where Shadows Lie is one of those books that immediately pulled me in. The first line is quite a hook, and from there I just sped along. The story is told from five points of view, which allows readers to really get a fleshed-out view of the plot and its evolution from different sides of the conflict(s). Each of the point of view characters were well fleshed out and felt real. None of them dipped into Pollyanna territory, and none of them ever felt two-dimensional. Pescatore obviously spent a lot of time carefully crafting her characters, making them all unique, with memorable voices and likes and dislikes. Small details that made them so terrifically real

Furthermore, Pescatore gives her characters room to make mistakes, and bad decisions. They love fiercely, and they fall hard. They grow and develop in unexpected ways, and each of them are pushed past their comfort zones as well. None of them are purely good, all with foibles and darker desires to balance out the elements that shine so bright. Furthermore, I really appreciated the LGBTQIA+ rep, and how it was never a defining part of anyone in the book but just one element of who they were. 

No, you won’t always agree with the characters or motivations. There were a few times when I wanted to shake someone and say, “WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS?” But isn’t that what good books do? If characters always did what I wanted them to do, books would be boring.

The other place where Pescatore really shines is her worldbuilding. The world itself is cunningly created, with a ton of depth and history, details woven throughout the story make the world feel large and sprawling, as complex and dynamic as the world we live in. No detail was overlooked, no element haphazardly thrown in. I had a real sense that Pescatore probably geeked out a lot when creating both her characters and her world, and had a lot of fun doing it, because I felt that excitement throughout the book. These elements of development, the careful way they were created and used in the book, really spoke to me. While extremely well done, it was perhaps the author’s passion for her world and characters that spoke to me more. I kept thinking, “This author really loves what she’s doing here” as I read, and those tend to be the books that stick with me the most. An author’s passion is infectious. 

The magic system is interesting and layered, with different kinds of magic used by different people for different reasons. It’s something that causes a bit of conflict throughout the book, as many of these places, including Lirin, where the book takes place, have tried to control and limit the use of magic. This has a way of creating a certain amount of social tension, which ripples just about everywhere. There are interesting explorations of economic impact, as well. The ultimate impact of a lot of these magic-use limitations results in a further-divided society where there are obvious haves, and have-nots. Those who have opportunity, and those who don’t, and that particular chasm is made even wider by numerous other strains, like politics, and social and religious pressures. Pescatore really spent a lot of time exploring the gulf that separates people, not shying away from uncomfortable conversations, nor from showing the harsh reality and impacts of these divides to both her characters and her readers alike.

The main religion here involves five gods. While most people view them as abstract and remote, figures that exist but at a distance, they really aren’t that at all, and that’s where the book truly shines. These gods take a very real interest in the events on the world they rule over, and they often manipulate them through human counterparts: pawns, and loyal subjects. Their reach is wide, and powerful, and I found the insertion of these gods and their mysterious aims to be just as interesting and dynamic as just about everything else. In a society that is already torn in so many different ways, this particular element of the story was that final push it needed to take it from a really good book to a book I absolutely loved. 

There’s a lot in Where Shadows Lie. I mean, this book has a ton going on, and it’s just relentless in every respect. It’s very obviously the first book in a series, where so much is being set up, and while there is resolution, there are doors open for expansion in the world, characters, and plot as well. It is epic in every possible respect. If I had to pick on any parts of it, I would say some of the dialogue felt a little cumbersome, and there were one or two shadowy figures who perhaps didn’t feel as fleshed out as the rest of the cast, but those are small potatoes. I had an absolute blast with this book and I really can’t wait to she where Pescatore takes the series next. 

At the end of the day, it seems like Where Shadows Lie is largely an exploration of change, whether personally, socially, politically, religiously, or magically. Everything in this book seems to be in flux, and where Pescatore seems to find solid ground as an author is exploring how those changes personally impact the characters she’s chosen to experience it through, and then ripple from them into the wider world. It’s politically heavy and there’s a lot of intrigue here, but there’s also a lot of very quiet personal moments as well. 

Where Shadows Lie was absolutely fantastic. From the first page, I knew this was a book I would love reading. It put Pescatore on my radar as an author to watch. I can’t wait to see where she takes this series next. 

5/5 stars