Sunday, December 5, 2010

Book review: Shadow Hills

Shadow Hills
Magic, mystery, mythology and science combine to form one explosive romantic and gothic mystery novel. 

Shadow Hills by Anastasia Hopcus (EgmontUSA)
Ever since her sister Athena's tragic demise, grief-stricken Persephone Archer has been plagued with a series of unsettling and cryptic dreams.

Hoping to make sense of her sister's death, Phe decides to leave Los Angeles in order to enrol and register at Devenish Prep, a boarding school in Shadow Hills, Massachusetts.

Once there, the bright and highly perceptive Phe is quick to notice that something is very, very different about her new town.

She's quick to find out that the town's history boasts an unexplained epidemic that wiped out hundreds of its citizens during the 1700s and yet perplexingly enough,the modern townies that she's currently surrounded by, seem to have highly developed IQs, keen psychic senses and other bizarre abilities - something which definitely seems to be at odds with a town that has a history of such a wide-spread epidemic.

When she bumps into the Zach, the gorgeous stranger who seems to have shown up straight out of her dreams (and who has secrets of his own), Phe somehow knows that there is something more about the town that connects her to it.

The longer she stays there, the more she begins to feel that her destiny is somehow inexorably linked to those who reside in Shadow Hills. But looking for answers comes with its own set of risks and Phe is about to find out just how much is at stake in her quest to discover the truth.

My thoughts:
Have you ever read a book that impressed you so much that you feel as if no amount of wordy descriptiveness or gushing on your part will do the book justice?

Shadow Hills was that book for me. 

Considering the fact that there is such a host of YA paranormal fiction that has been done to death, I'll be the first to admit that I was rather intrigued when I stumbled across Shadow Hills.

The synopsis of the book promised something a little different and when I read a few reviews mentioning that Anastasia Hopcus delves a bit into some Greek Mythology (I have a huge, huge interest and passion for mythology - especially Greek mythology), my level of interest and intrigue heightened to a fever pitch.

For me, Shadow Hills is one of those books whose synopsis simply doesn't do it justice. There's mystery, there's romance, there's a combination of mythology and a generous incorporation of science.

I read this book with the expectation of it being a fantastic gothic mystery, but never anticipated that I would be getting so much more out of this book (don't you just love books like that?).

Anastasia's writing had me hooked from the start.  She's written a fantastic story with very strong and incredibly likeable characters. 

We meet Persephone at the point where it's been a good couple of months since her sister has died and where she's making her way to Devenish Prep.

From the start you get the sense that she's one tough-cookie. She's likeable, easy to relate to and although she displays a softer and more vulnerable side when it comes to dealing with her sister's death, she also showcases a daredevil streak that you can't help but admire (even though at the same time you find yourself cringing because her impulsiveness leaves very little room for any form of self-preservation). 

How she manages to get herself out of tight spots is nothing but a combination a miracle and sheer inventiveness from her part.

She's an endlessly curious risk taker and has an unquenchable thirst for uncovering the history behind the history of Shadow Hills as well as trying to decipher the meaning behind the cryptic dreams she's been having. Her development throughout the novel was fabulously balanced and influenced by the new friends she made as well as Zach, her major love interest.

I was definitely thrown for a complete loop regarding the paranormal aspect of this novel. 

The scientific reasoning behind some of the paranormal aspects in this novel is astounding, unique and is written in such a way that it will appeal to you even if you're not interested in anything science related (Trust me, I'm no science boffin, but I loved this aspect of the novel).

With such a strong combination of elements, I have to take my hat off to Anastasia for creating a steady balance between the amount of science and mythology that was revealed in the book. 

Both subjects are heavily intensive and it was really great to see Anastasia revealing bits and pieces of information at a time instead of just overwhelming the reader with too much information at once.

The mythological aspect of the novel is also something that I really enjoyed reading about. Without giving anything away, I get the feeling that there is so much more to Phe's story and destiny in regards to this and would really love to see Anastasia delve a little more deeply into this in future.

And then, of course, there was the romance. My review wouldn't be much of a review if I didn't mention the sizzling chemistry between Phe and Zach.

Their romance was incredible and I really loved the fact that while the attraction was almost instantaneous, the build-up to both of them acknowledging their feelings was what really made the romance between them so explosive.

Another great thing about Phe is that she doesn't let her budding relationship interfere with her relationships with her new found friends - which is a very refreshing change from characters who usually ditch their friends for the hot boy. 

Speaking of friends, the additional cast of characters were simply fantastic and I really loved how unique the various different character names were. Graham, Toy, Brody and Adriana added a fantastic dimension to the story and I loved how each of their personalities really injected an added dynamic and sparkle to an already fantastic story.

I know that I gush about a lot of books I've read and reviewed this year, but if there is really one book that  I'd highly recommend you read before this year is over, then it's this one. It's one of my favourite 2010 debut novels of the year.  And definitely worth its 5 star rating.

As part of the Shadow Hills blog tour, I'll be featuring Anastasia on Tuesday, 7th December. Be sure to stop on by - as I'll also be hosting a giveaway where you can win a Shadow Hills poster!

8 comments:

Melissa said...

Awesome review! I keep putting this one off because I see great reviews then blah ones, but now I'm convinced...I'm going to try it after all :D

Leanna (Daisy Chain Book Reviews) said...

I loved Shadow Hills - it's one of my favourite 2010 debuts. I loved Anastasia writing style, the Greek Mythology theme and of course the hot romance between Phe and Zach!

Great review. I knew you'd love this one too! :)

Straylights said...

I think I've heard of this book...but I think that I didn't like the cover and so I never read the book blurb. Silly me and my judging! *slaps hand* :::sigh::: I suppose I shall have to add this book now to my pile, the mythology and science aspect of the book seem really interesting to me! Thanks for the awesome reviewwwwww!

Jan von Harz said...

This has been sitting on my TBR shelf for forever, after such a terrific review, I am moving it up on the pile. Thanks

Jenny said...

Yay Tammy! I really enjoyed this one as well, and like you, loved that there was a little scientific explanation behind some of the paranormal elements, it made me feel like maybe there actually could be a remote place where this could happen. I loved the secondary characters as well, they were fabulous:)

Chrissie said...

I have read a lot of great reviews for this book. I really must read it soon! Great review :)

Aisle B said...

Another review that makes me think "Pixie girl... you sure know how to write and make me think.. gotta Get this one NOW!"

Clover said...

Oh WOW, you've definitely convinced me that this is a book that I really must get my hands on!