Monday, June 20, 2016

Rising Shadows + Chasing Shadows Review: Sarah

Book: Rising Shadows
Author: Ashley Townsend
Series: Rising Shadows #1
Genre: YA fantasy
Source: ebook, author (thank you, Ashley!)
Publisher: Kirkdale Press
Pages: 177
Release: January 1st 2012

Sarah Matthews is nearing the end of another eventless summer in the small town of Bethany, Oklahoma, bringing her closer to the start of her freshman year of college. Disheartened over the reality that yet another unexciting season is coming to an end, Sarah wishes for an unforgettable adventure. When mysterious circumstances transport Sarah and her younger sister back in time, she gets more of an adventure than she could have ever imagined. The two sisters find themselves trapped in the twelfth century in a place shrouded with mystery and deception. Assassination plots, kidnappings, and tumultuous adventures force Sarah to rely on the Shadow, a masked hero who comes to her aid numerous times. In order to uncover a conspiracy and save those closest to her, Sarah requests help from the Shadow and also from Will, the handsome and equally intriguing blacksmith she befriends. Sarah is strangely drawn to the excitement that seems to follow the town hero and begins to look forward to their secret encounters. She also finds herself caught in a romance with Will, despite the fact that their equally fiery personalities have a tendency to clash as they attempt to work together. But Will’s past is filled with secrets and pains, and Sarah finds it difficult to break through the walls he has built around him. Can the faith and love of God that Sarah exhibits in her own life cause his hardened facade to fall away as he discovers that forgiveness and mercy are never too far from reach?

This novels tells the story of eighteen-year old Sarah Matthews, who has recently graduated high school and is spending the summer, bored, in anticipation of her new college life in the fall. That is, until something strange happens, and she finds herself and her younger sister transported into the twelfth (the twelfth!) century. Caught right in the middle of a hunt for a witch, Sarah must navigate assassination plots and kidnappings, which leads her to ask for help from the mysterious Shadow, as well as the local blacksmith William Taylor...

Sarah was an interesting character to get to know. Her situation and mindset was completely believable and realistic; having absolutely no prior experience with anything remotely related to surviving, she relied heavily on her wits and politeness to navigate her way around the people and avoid questions. Though she sometimes felt too dependent on others, the ending leaves tons of space for Sarah to grow in the next books.

Though aspects of the plot were a bit predictable, it was still enjoyable. Sarah's determination to get her sister home followed by helping Karen were realistic goals, and shows where her heart truly lies. I can totally relate to those goals, and would probably do the same if I were in Sarah's shoes.

The main part I was set off by was the religion aspect. I completely respect it, but as I'm agnostic, at times it felt a little overwhelming. I felt that it sometimes took away from the overall plot, or acted as substitutes for the possibility of larger events.

This novel has a promising start, with tons of room to grow. The ending was really good, and it keeps the reader rightfully hooked. The predictable plot and the religion aspect were the down points  but I'm keeping my fingers crossed for more romance and action in the next one to make up for it!

Book: Chasing Shadows
Author: Ashley Townsend
Series: Rising Shadows #2
Genre: YA fantasy
Source: ebook, author (thank you, Ashley!)
Publisher: Ink Smith Publishing
Pages: 400
Release: September 2014

Would you choose to entwine your fate with a hero of the past, even if it meant altering the future?
The murder of an ancient king spurs Sarah Matthews to travel back in time, putting her life in jeopardy as she races against the clock to solve a thousand-year-old mystery and pick up the pieces of her star-crossed romance. Her return to Serimone reveals that the kingdom is in upheaval and that the elusive Cadius has sinister plans for the throne. Unable to right the empire alone, Sarah reunites with Will, the love she left behind and the man beneath the Shadow’s hood. As they work together amidst lavish balls and explore the secret depths of the castle, they discover that the conspiracy runs deeper than they ever imagined. And when a counterfeit Shadow claims the life of someone close to her after a personal threat from Cadius himself, Sarah discovers that the price of questioning the new regime is a life. 
Guilt-ridden and alone, she discovers comfort in her newfound friendship with Damien, a charming Spaniard who joins Sarah in her personal crusade for justice. But as she draws closer to his dark past and to the faceless killer in their midst, she realizes that the severed threads of time and the mystery surrounding Serimone Castle are unraveling rapidly, weaving new tapestries of devastation. 
In this thrilling and deceptive sequel to "Rising Shadows," Sarah is forced into harm’s way countless times as she races to solve the puzzle before it is too late and Serimone becomes nothing more than a faded memory of the past. . . And before Sarah becomes a permanent fixture in history.

This book picks up a few months after the ending of Rising Shadows. Sarah is heading off to college, and has been doing her best to forget about her adventures in Serimone, before she lost her heart to Will there. But when Karen comes knocking on her door, begging Sarah to return, she has no choice but to comply--and to find herself caught up in a mystery regarding the king's death. 

Sarah was considerably more active in this book. She grows in courage, finding herself in bad situations yet always remaining calm enough to find a way out. We get to see what a kind person she is during her care of Damien. However, I still would have liked to see a bit more character growth from her. Though she did go through devastation, I feel like she could have been impacted significantly more. It would have been nice to see Sarah emerge from such devastation headstrong and determined to do what was right, with or without help, perhaps even acting a bit reckless.

The romance aspect had both highs and lows. We were drifting a bit towards a love triangle, which concerned me greatly. I couldn't help but cringe a bit when Sarah started friend zoning Damien, as well as when Will caught Sarah and Damien together. A bit predictable in some aspects. But once Sarah and Will made up, the romance did a complete 180--it became exciting, sweet, and very enjoyable to read. Exactly what I wanted from the start!

One thing I was grateful for was the lack of faith-drive plot. In the previous book, the abundance of Christianity made me feel a bit alienated, as I do not identify as being Christian. However, I do think that faith is a large part of Sarah's character, and it shouldn't be taken out completely. The author did a great job balancing it in this book, keeping it to a minimum but still letting it have a way to motivate Sarah at times. I didn't feel like an outsider, and still was able to see the importance of faith for Sarah.

Though I enjoyed the plot and the various moving elements surrounding the king's death, I found the pacing to be a bit slow, not picking up until the final quarter of the book. I did enjoy the climax, as there was more action and more severe consequences that followed. It was generally more exciting than the first book, for sure!

Overall, better than the first book, but there's still some room for improvement for both the pacing and characters!


  1. Sounds interesting but a three star read is not pulling me these days. Thanks for reviewing these!

  2. This sounds fun, but I'm with Jazmen as well. I'm glad to see that the series did improve though as it progressed! I wanted to let you know that I nominated you for the Infinity Dreams Award here on my blog! :D

  3. Oh wow the twelfth century! I usually read regency stuff, that if you think about it, wasn't too long ago. These sound really interesting! And the cover of the second book is so pretty!! :3

    Lipstick and Mocha

    1. Agreed! The twelfth century was quite the adventure! I haven't read anything set that far back before!