Thank you so much to the Fantastic Flying Book Club for allowing me to participate in this blog tour! (It’s also my very first with them! *cue happy dance*) The moment I set eyes on this cover, then read the synopsis, I knew I was hooked.
Title: Beyond the Shadowed Earth
Author: Joanna Ruth Meyer
Publisher: Page Street Kids
Release Date: January 14, 2020
Genres: YA Fantasy
I received an ARC of this book from the publisher via The Fantastic Flying Bookshelf and Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
It has always been Eda’s dream to become empress, no matter the cost. Haunted by her ambition and selfishness, she’s convinced that the only way to achieve her goal is to barter with the gods. But all requests come with a price and Eda bargains away the soul of her best friend in exchange for the crown. Years later, her hold on the empire begins to crumble and her best friend unexpectedly grows sick and dies. Gnawed by guilt and betrayal, Eda embarks on a harrowing journey to confront the very god who gave her the kingdom in the first place. However, she soon discovers that he’s trapped at the center of an otherworldly labyrinth and that her bargain with him is more complex than she ever could have imagined-he always intended for her to free him…or take his place.
- Though this book is technically a companion novel, I haven’t read the first one, and this book read as a standalone for me.
- It’s a standalone fantasy novel! And I loved it! I love it when that happens!
- There is a tiny bit of romance in this book (definitely doesn’t take over the story by any means) and I loved it! It made me go squishy inside!
- Can I just say, dang? Because DANG this book was incredible.
Let’s talk about Eda. I’m not usually charmed by protagonists who are also villains. They are hard to read about—for me, anyway. But Eda’s raw energy, her desperation, really pulled me into her story. She’s an awful person—she killed a king, destroyed many lives, and wants power above everything. But when things start falling apart, that’s when her vulnerabilities started to shine. I was so intrigued to see where her story was going to go, since I had no idea what direction the author was going to take it. And I loved the direction the author took Eda. This is such a character-driven fantasy novel. The plot is also interesting and engaging, but Eda’s character growth was the real star of the show. I loved seeing her frustrations, seeing her strengths, seeing her realizations as she learned more about herself. It was beautifully done, beautifully written.
Speaking of incredible craft, the world building in this book is phenomenal. The cultures the characters live in, the actual world, the magic system, the gods’ lore…everything is so intricate and complex. Joanna mentions in her dedication that Tolkien and Megan Whalen Turner has inspired her work, and it really shows. I felt utterly enthralled in the world the author had created. Also, the giant golden eagles were a fun nod to Tolkien 😀
I know I’m jumping around here, but I’d like to mention the secondary characters here. There are not a ton of extra characters in this story, and it’s easy to keep track of the cast. Not only that, but every character felt three-dimensional to me. They each had their own motivations, their own fears and strengths. They did not exist to only serve the protagonist. Even the gods as characters were fascinating, and I loved reading their stories and how their experiences shaped them.
Will I ever get over that ending? Probably not. The tension and stakes were so built in a way that the ending had to be explosive, and impressive, and it was that. It was more than that.
Reading this book was an amazing study of craft—in world building, character, and plot. Needless to say, I will be keeping an eye out for Joanna’s next books (and diving into her backlist!) because I was utterly blown away by this novel.
About the Author
Joanna Ruth Meyer hails from Mesa, Arizona, where she lives with her dear family, a rascally feline, and an enormous grand piano. When she’s not writing, she’s trying to convince her students that Bach is actually awesome, or plotting her escape from the desert. She loves good music, thick books, looseleaf tea, rainstorms, and staring out of windows. One day, she aspires to own an old Victorian house with creaky wooden floors and a tower (for writing in, of course!).