I’ve always loved the concept of the Effigies series — kickass superpowered teenage girls who also need to deal with being online celebrities and heroes to teens around the world. Fate of Flames (Book 1) felt to me like Captain Planet meets early Buffy the Vampire Slayer with a dose of CW teen issues and an awesome group of heroines of colour. My only snag with Book 1 was the world building, as it still felt confused and like the author tried to cobble together so many disparate bits of mythology that didn’t quite gel. The end also bugged me with the reveal of a male Effigy, after an entire book of building up the Buffy-type mythos that all Effigies were female and none of the characters batted an eye at this oddity.
Fortunately, Siege of Shadows kicks off with a much more confident tone, trusting that its world has been established and pitching us right into the heart of the story and its characters. In this instalment, Maia and the other Effigies are on the hunt for Saul when they discover some biologically engineered soldiers with Effigy-like abilities. The emotional stakes are higher as well, as Maia’s ability to scry into the memories (remnant spirit?) of the former Fire Effigy Natalya reveals uncomfortable truths about the guy she likes, and compels her to keep secrets from the other Effigies. I especially love how Raughley portrays the dangers of scrying — we realize how and why Maia fears tapping into this ability, but we also understand why she needs to. There’s a scene near the beginning where she needs to touch upon Natalya’s memories with only lab-controlled conditions protecting her from being possessed completely, and Raughley writes it so realistically that Maia’s reluctant agreement feels even more heroic than the action-packed battle scenes.
I also enjoyed learning a lot more about the other characters’ lives and pasts. What we learn about Rhys’ family reveals much more vulnerability than his cool persona indicates, and I wish his relationship with his brother is explored much more in future books. Chae Rin’s conversations with her sister about their mother’s health makes real how much she has sacrificed to be an Effigy, and I like that even though despite all her outward toughness, she clearly remains conflicted to the end about the choices she makes. Belle’s past is also a revelation, as we begin to understand why she’s so loyal to Natalya, even at times to the expense of Maia’s safety and the Effigies’ mission.
Siege of Shadows starts off somewhat slow — the scenes were packed full of action, but lacked the rising urgency to make me want to keep reading. Fortunately, as the pace picks up and the emotional chords are set into play, the story became more compelling. The relationships between the characters and their pasts made this book for me, and the final half or so was just impossible to put down.
And the ending — OMG. What an amazing, emotional wallop! It took one of the most emotionally charged plot threads and just propelled it to a conclusion that was unexpected, but almost felt inevitable. It also raises the stakes tremendously for Book 3, and I can’t wait to find out what happens next.
Author Guest Post: Sarah’s Superheroes
Since Sarah created such a kickass group of superheroes, I was curious about which other superheroes Sarah fangirls over. I asked who her favourite superhero is, and if she’s ever dressed up as one. It turns out she shares my love for the Ninja Turtles and Buffy the Vampire Slayer!
I am really boring because I don’t think I’ve ever dressed up as a superhero. Although I may have gone as a Ninja Turtle when I was, like, seven? If I can remember that far back. And yes, I love the ninja turtles and would want to list them in my top ten fave superheroes. Justice for the 2007 movie!
I don’t know if I have one favorite superhero, but I respect those who feel a little imperfect, a little weak, or even sometimes a little amoral, because that’s what makes them human to me. When I see heroes struggling under the weight of a huge destiny, slipping and falling, but fighting anyway – those are the heroes that inspire me the most. Buffy throwing books at Giles in the Season 1 Finale of Buffy the Vampire Slayer when she’s told that she’ll have to die to save the world is far more relatable than a hero who always does everything right. This is why I always, for example, gravitated towards Zuko from Avatar the Last Airbender, and why I came to appreciate Usagi of Sailor Moon who was a hero despite all of her flaws.
One hero I don’t think gets enough credit because so few people know this anime series is Ahiru from Princess Tutu. She is literally a duck- like a literal duck swimming in a pond. She has so little power and yet through the force of her own determination (with a little bit of magic sprinkled in) can make miracles happen. The human element is always a must in stories of superheroes because that’s how I personally connect to them as a writer and reader: it shows that the power of determination and human will is greater than any super power.
Siege of Shadows Blog Tour
Check out the rest of the blog tour this week!
Thank you to Simon and Schuster Canada for an advance reading copy in exchange for an honest review.