Usually when reviewing a book, it's possible to give away a few minor plot points, in order to discuss the theme and intentions of the author, without actually spoiling anything in the book. With Shadowfever, however, pretty much discussing anything is a spoiler.
In fact, admitting the existence of the book is actually a spoiler.
I can't even really discuss what characters feature in this story because that, too, would be a spoiler. This review has absolutely no spoilers in the main part. Down below, if you scroll to the very bottom of the page, you will see some comments and thoughts of mine that contain spoilers but they are well marked and easily avoided.
My best chance for providing a spoiler-free review for you is to just describe my general feel of the book.
This is really the easiest way for me to do that.
Reading this book was like that scene out of Napoleon Dynamite where Pedro promises his class that if they vote for him, all their dreams will come true.
Shadowfever was a little like that. In the first four books, KMM promised that if I just picked this one up, ALL MY DREAMS WOULD COME TRUE.
And you know what? KMM wasn't fucking around.
Pictured: Not Fucking Around
She did everything I believed was absolutely impossible. She did it with class, she did it with style and she actually made me happy that I put my faith in this series.
That's a pretty big order to fill.
As promised, the Shadowfever delivered WITH fireworks.
Part of it was that Mac was such a singularly self-introspective character. Every thought, every action, every word or omission was examined with cruel, objective efficiency. And even when she lied to herself, she always came back later with a big hammer of truth and shattered those illusions until those illusions were SORRY and promised to never illude (made up word alert) again.
She defied a mainstay of western literature in her savagery and need for vengeance. Most (Disclaimer: Not all) literature idealizes woman as the forgiving creature who prefers to get on with her life as opposed to wasting it on vengeance. Probably so that she can get down to the baby making that is so important.
This is a particular problem in the romance genre where KMM first made her big break.
Women do not traditionally want to hold the cooling body of their enemy while blood drips to the floor and their hand twists the weapon that has brought an end to their vengeance. Usually, that's a man thing.
But, you see, Mac takes responsibility for her own vengeance. She takes responsibility for the world - despite how much she doesn't want to. We see repeatedly in the first four books that as much as she wants to shift the burden, she doesn't. That takes a special kind of strength. All the while reading this series, I was only glad it was Mac's story and not mine.
Kat's story would have ended with shagging V'lane ruthlessly because Kat couldn't keep it in her pants when sexy came calling. The end. I just would have trusted my gut and hoped that Barrons, Rowena or V'lane of the MacKeltars knew better. Who was I to decide the fate of the world?
Shadowfever sorely tests that aspect of Mac, that strength to not rely on others to solve her problems. I cannot sing KMM's praises enough for this. Princesses who sit in castles waiting for the noble prince to find them, romance heroine's whose honourable, rich lover turns up to rescue them... Their stories pale in comparison to a lead character who rolls with the punches that life gives her and does everything in her power to punch back.
The single problem that I have with this book is its inability to let go of other western (and other cultures are to blame too) ideals that we place on our female leads.
The concept of action for selfish reasons is briefly addressed in this book and I felt that KMM was handling it so well. I felt that Mac's selfishness and desire to use power for her own means were actually so well justified by the past text that maybe she SHOULD be allowed to use the ultimate power to achieve her means.
This concept was later twisted and garbled though and, without going into detail, was the only small botherance I really had with what was other a fantastic novel and a spectacular end to this amazing series.
There is actually more of a reason that I didn't give this book more than four stars and why I might decide to bump it down to three.
Reading up to this book several fans, including myself, picked apart the other four looking for clues. We were so sure that Barron's identity, Mac's mysterious past, the Unseelie King, the purpose of the book... we were so sure that the answers were staring us right in the face and that we just needed to find the right set of evidence to figure it out.
But now I know that for the lie it was. Some things were cleverly concealed, like the identity of Alanna's killer and the holder of her journal. However, all of the rest, I feel, were kept from us. You can't deduce what Barrons is from the pitiful amount of information provided in the first four books and nothing will prepare you for the rather annoying truth. He's something never before seen. Never before heard of. There's no myth, no legend. It was never something we COULD guess.
Same with Mac's origins. How could you actually know that the book was capable of absorbing itself into a fetus? You can't. You never have enough information that you could have deduced that.
So whilst I really enjoyed Shadowfever, I felt a bit cheated that KMM wasn't the brilliant creator, cleverly concealing the truth so that the truly observant amongst her readership could arrive at the right conclusions. She just didn't give us enough information. Maybe that sounds like whining. Maybe it sounds like a petulant child, stamping its foot and saying, "It's not fair!"
Well, truthfully, if a mystery writer finished a novel and the hero came out and said, "It was the Maid in the poolroom with the candlestick but you wouldn't have been able to guess that because I'm only now presenting the information necessary to come to that conclusion!" Well, in that case you'd think the mystery writer was cracked. Half the fun is in trying to be smarter than the protagonist. In this case, none of us really had a chance.
Also, Mac's a big whimpy coward who should have told Barrons right from the getgo that she loved him.
My other problem with this entire series is the nature of women and men portrayed. Mac and Dani are the only good, powerful women portrayed and Dani is just a child.
The Fae are supposed to be matriarchal yet they are effectively led by V'lane. The women don't really have any power. The so-called queen is weak, ineffectual and needs to be protected by a Prince who also does all the work for her. In the confrontation between Seelie and Unseelie we see that the female fae have no voice or authority over the men and their opinions are easily discarded.
All the big players in this book are men with the sole exception of Rowena, who is not only a total bitch but also weak and obviously a very poor leader with bad judgement. Women who gain power in this series, with the sole exception of Mac, become bad. The Seelie Queen is depicted as cruel, jealous and ultimately defeated by her more powerful husband.
Might makes right for Barrons and his men whose views on women make cavemen look fair and reasonable. The MacKeltars are just as bad and reading this book gives the distinct impression that Mac's vagina (and who gets it) is just as important as Mac's abilities.
Barrons becomes furious with Mac in Dreamfever for withholding information about the Book because apparently this is the one thing he's after. YET, he knows that Mac's search for her sister's killer is the one thing she's after and he is all too happy to keep information about that to himself.
Fiona gains some power by eating unseelie flesh in these novels yet she is ultimately a doormat to her petty emotions for Barrons. Not a single one of the major book players (McCabe, Malluce, O'Bannion) are female. Women simply don't have power in the Fever world. Even if they're supposed to.