Received from publisher for review
THE STORY (from Goodreads)
Rory Miller had one
chance to fight back and she took it. Rory survived… and the serial
killer who attacked her escaped. Now that the infamous Steven Nell is on
the loose, Rory must enter the witness protection with her father and
sister, Darcy, leaving their friends and family without so much as a
Starting over in a new town with only each other is
unimaginable for Rory and Darcy. They were inseparable as children, but
now they can barely stand each other. As the sisters settle in to
Juniper Landing, a picturesque vacation island, it seems like their new
home may be just the fresh start they need. They fall in with a group of
beautiful, carefree teens and spend their days surfing, partying on the
beach, and hiking into endless sunsets. But just as they’re starting to
feel safe again, one of their new friends goes missing. Is it a
coincidence? Or is the nightmare beginning all over again?
Shadowlands is an extraordinarily creepy tale, our time with protagonist Rory interrupted periodically by the terrifying thoughts of a severely disturbed individual as he briefly details his fixation on–and plans for–the girl who got away. At first glance this first book of a trilogy seems like a fairly straightforward thriller, but the more time we spend in the small vacation resort town of Juniper Landing the more blurred the genre line becomes, until soon the questions as to what exactly is off about Rory's new world become as thick as the fog that envelops the seaside village nearly every evening. It's with hearts frantically pumping and breaths escaping in shallow bursts that we devour chapter after chapter, our fear of the unknown a constant companion that keeps our nerves raw until the very last page.
Perhaps one of the more interesting aspects of this story is that we know the identity of the killer from the very first chapter, our anxiety then stemming not from wondering who's after Rory, but rather how long it's going to take for him to find her and what he's going to do when he does. Our brief forays into his mind let us know just how sick Steven Nell truly is, this intimate knowledge creating a thriving conduit between us as readers and Rory herself, what we know of him making Rory's fear all the more real to us. Her nightmares then become our own, and her terror feeds our imaginations until the thought of closing our eyes in the dark of night causes us to break out in a cold sweat.
Rory is someone we easily connect with, our witnessing of her brush with death, however separated by paper and ink, linking us together inextricably from page one. Her father and sister's seeming nonchalance with regard to her safety only serves to strengthen our bond, our desire to throttle them every time they bemoan the lengths they must go to protect Rory almost overwhelming at times, but our anger and disgust over their reactions slowly turn to curiosity as the conundrum that is Juniper Landing slowly consumes us. Rory is an unreliable narrator, her diagnosis of PTSD after her mother's death rearing its head again after her experience with Steven Nell, making the way she relays events end in question marks rather than periods. Her possible instability only serves to dirty already murky water further, holding us captivated as we try desperately to find clarity amidst all the mental and emotional debris.
The only thing keeping Shadowlands from a much higher rating is the conclusion itself. We're left dangling with a cliffhanger not jaw-droppingly surprising given the subtle clues throughout, but it does kick us out of the story at a key moment of revelation, thus abandoning us to the monstrous list of burning questions raised by the final parting words. Certain pieces have been identified for us in the last chapter, but we have no idea yet how they fit together, the final line like the corner piece of a puzzle—perfect for us to build off of yet the blank page following those haunting words denies us all the remaining connecting pieces necessary to create a full picture. As a result, we part with Rory at essentially a starting point, our toes caressed and teased by the lapping waters of a sea of questions, with absolutely no answers to be found on the horizon no matter how hard we stare. Despite a frustrating end, Shadowlands is still beautifully chilling; a read that carves itself a place in our memories and refuses to budge.