I sincerely recommend the Shadow Curse: Book 1 by Kala Merseal to anyone who enjoys fantasy fiction. There are a couple of typographical errors, but probably less than 10 for the whole book. So despite these few errors I give this book a resounding 5 stars for the excellent plot line, exceptional characters, realistic dialog, and steady, believable action.
This story is not unique in that it falls under the plot of “royal heir on the run while hordes attack their country”. However, this book is not highly predictable. The details of the shadow curse turning the victim into the enemy, instead of just a malingering death, is excellent. This is a little detail but also incredibly important. Because they are on the run from an attacking enemy, there is frequent action, but a realistic plot also interwoven with exhaustion, injuries, rain, and a desire to be clean.
The strength of this story is the characters, and within that, the dialog. The dialog certainly shows surprise and frustration, as well as learning, and camaraderie. The language is engaging for adults but also appropriate for YA. While we read from the point of view of two main characters, it is only through the dialog and interactions that we come to understand the other characters. The dialog is key to this as we come to know those characters, but never is the dialog clunky or overdone. Always, it is believable.
Most of the characters seem to know each other well. It makes it a little confusing as we try to discover how they know each other and their relationships, but this is realistic to life when we join a new group. I enjoyed reading the nuances to “get to know” the characters. The dialog and interactions are believable which makes this a fun process. There is a romantic relationship, but while it is referred to, and while we see the characters holding each other, (and a level of disapproval from one of the main characters,) it is not over the top.
I stayed up far too late to finish reading this book because I just had to know what was going to happen next. As a good reader, I had some theories, but the author nicely throws some twists in with the expected. I cannot wait to read the sequel!