*I received a copy via the publisher and NetGalley in return for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book.*
Rating: ★★★★☆ (4/5)
After failing to kill the Demon King, Lei and Wren barely escaped with their lives. But this isn’t the end of their journey, unaware their plot failed, the duo must travel the kingdom to gain support from clans from all corners of the world. But a heavy bounty on Lei’s head makes this even more difficult and when tensions begin to make Lei doubt what she knows, can she succeed in her quest or will the dark magic finish the war before its even begun?
After finishing Girls of Paper and Fire, I eagerly anticipated the release of Storm and Shadow. And I can say that I’m not disappointed, although I was a little underwhelmed. But I still found it a solid read.
I won’t lie, Lei, despite being our main protagonist, was not the star of the show for me. Lei and Wren are joined by others, some familiar, some new. Despite how fractured it all becomes at the end, I truly loved the moments of everyone banding together in their journey. I thought the brashness of Bo and Nitta would be off-putting, but their sibling banter was hilarious and I had come to love their sibling relationship a lot. Merrin got my attention the most, his anger and frustration with everything going on around them was admirable. My heart broke a lot during a pivotal moment in this book. Lei and Wren go through a lot in this. Wren, in particular, shocked me quite a bit. I won’t say too much, but I’m glad Ngan utilised Wren’s past a lot more in this book, a shocking revelation made a lot of sense and really amped up my excitement for whatever comes next in the finale.
In terms of world-building, Ngan definitely works hard to utilise this middle novel to branch out the world we see in the first. Due to their travels, we get a lot of new scenery. I absolutely loved the Wing Wings palace at lot, a mountainous location that was gorgeously detailed. Having seen a few novels I enjoy become webtoons recently, I’m secretly hoping this series joins the list. The visuals in the novel can work so well for a graphic novel interpretation.
My high rating of this book is mainly rooted in the fact that I love what this story could be, and the side character that really gave me a reason to push through. I’ll be honest and warn you all that this book is mainly one big journey of our main crew hopping from place to place and that initially deterred me a lot. I do believe Ngan did the best she could and actually made it less underwhelming than it could’ve been, but it’s still subject those certain aspects that come with writing the middle of a trilogy. I have to admit the first half had me bored out of my mind. The narrative was quite repetitive and Lei’s unreliability really hinders the plot that made it difficult to read. I love her moments of self-empowerment and her growth from surviving the hell the Demon King through. Ngan continues to take that violence Lei faces and reminds that trauma can continue to affect you long after the act. Lei is a force to be reckoned with. But Ngan makes her quite hypocritical and her relationship with Wren doesn’t feel like it developed from GoPaF.
There’s a whole lot of conflict, especially fight scenes which I absolutely loved, but the resolution felt lukewarm. The ending, however, piqued my interest a lot. As I mentioned, the beginning kicked off slow for me, but in the end, I am still genuinely interested in seeing this series to its conclusion.
Overall, I found Shadow and Storm quite polarising. On one hand, I found myself trudging along, but then on the other, there were moments of exhilarating action and the cast of characters were a highlight. I wouldn’t write this series off because of everything that happened in this one. I do believe this is a sequel worth reading, mainly because whatever comes next sounds damn amazing.
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