by Helena Sorensen
Published April 2013
This book was provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.
In a world of perpetual darkness, a boy is born who wields remarkable power over fire. Amos is no more than seven when he kills a Shadow Wolf and becomes a legend in Shiloh. He would be destined for great things were it not for the stories his father tells about a world beyond the Shadow and a time before the Shadow. Only madmen hold to such tales, and in Shiloh, they have always come to bad ends.
Amos is fearless. He walks with easy confidence, certain that the Shadow cannot touch him. Even his family is in awe of him. His father marvels at his skill with the bow, his mother thanks the gods that he has all the courage she lacks, and his sister, Phebe, worships him for saving her from an attack of the Shadow Cats.
On a trip to the village of Emmerich, Amos rescues the Magistrate’s son, Simeon, from the village bullies. Simeon, fair-skinned and pale-eyed like other Dreamers in Shiloh’s history, becomes Amos’s constant companion and dearest friend. Simeon becomes a part of Amos’s family, listening to fireside stories told in a way he’s never heard them before and learning to wield a bow and arrow.
The year the boys turn twelve, they are itching to prove themselves. An impetuous plan to steal a beautiful lantern goes miserably awry, and the lantern’s owner prophecies that Amos will be devoured by the Shadow. For the first time, a seed of fear is planted in Amos’s mind, and when his father is killed by a Shadow Wolf on the last day of the Great Hunt, the fear takes hold. If so great and brave a man as his father could fall to the Shadow, what hope has he?
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First things first: the setting of Shiloh is very creative and done well. One of my favorite things about the concept of this world is the way infants glow (showing their divinity) but as the children grow older, that light is dimmed, then lost.
That said, I had a hard time for the first chunk of the book. I felt like, while we were learning about these characters, and what forms them, I found that I just didn't care about them. As the book progressed, the only ones I could care about were Phebe and Simeon -- and it took a while to get there. Also, the story was full of songs and tales that it felt like the plot was merely treading water until almost 2/3 of the way through.
However, I'm quite convinced that it's because Shiloh just wasn't what I expected. I was told the book was full of "wolves and dragons, clans and legends, bows and arrows, and whatnot." Yes, all those things were there, but it was very light on dragons, extremely heavy on legends. I allowed myself to have high expectations for my assumptions, and I shouldn't have.
This isn't the kind of story that flows so fantastically you can't put it down -- it's more of a meandering exploration -- but that's not a bad thing! Just go into it knowing what to expect. I felt it wasn't so much a plot-driven story (which is mainly what I've been reading lately), but more of a setting-driven one.