cast in shadows coverRating: 3.75 stars
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Length: Novel

 

Bastian is a Caster, a wielder of Light magic who fights shades, shadow-like beings that attach themselves to people and feed on and enhance their negative feelings. Bastian comes from a family of Casters and lives on their compound, but he has always been made to feel inferior by his father and brother for not being a full-blooded mage. So when Bastian is about to take down one of the strongest and most feared shades, he thinks this might finally be a chance to show his skills. However, the tables get turned and not only does the shade escape into another body, but Bastian ends up cursed.

Andras is thrilled to replace the injured body he has been inhabiting with a shiny new one — even better when it is the body of a retired Caster, which means Andras can pass himself off as one of the team. He is looking for revenge against the Casters and getting into their compound will help his plan. He is also looking for a book that might help explain who cursed him, which he is guessing the Casters have as well. Andras can’t believe it when he manages to convince Bastian to bring him to the Compound. Even knowing Andras is a being of dark magic, Bastian is surprisingly willing to keep him around.

Bastian knows he shouldn’t trust Andras, but the man brings a bit of spark to Bastian’s otherwise gloomy life. Andras just says and does what he wants in a way Bastian has never even considered for himself, but being around him begins to give Bastian some new confidence to stand up for himself and worry less about his difficult family. The men are finding a surprising connection, though Bastian is still hiding from everyone who Andras really is. However, it soon becomes clear that the situation with Andras is not the only dark magic problem going on. Shades are flocking to town and they appear to be harder to kill. The Casters are getting more calls to help stop shade infestations and the resulting violence they cause. And somehow, Andras and Bastian seem to be among the few who can stop them. It may not have been in Andras’ plan to help the Casters, but he also can’t bring himself to leave Bastian vulnerable. Yet at the same time, he knows if his own plans for revenge are going to succeed, he won’t be able to let himself keep Bastian for good.

Cast in Shadows is the first book in Alice Winters’ new Shadow’s Lure series and it opens up an interesting new world. We are quickly thrust into the action as Bastian is fighting this sort of super shade who has unusual abilities compared to other shades. We see Bastian’s thrill at being about to defeat him and prove his worth the doubters, then his disappointment as things fall apart. It is a great way to set the stage for the dynamic between Bastian and his father and brother, who treat him incredibly poorly. Bastian is actually quite powerful, but he is treated as lesser by his family for not being a full-blooded mage. As the book continues, Bastian begins to come into his own and he gets support from Andras along the way. Part of it is watching Andras’ confidence and his lack of fear, and part of it is having someone care about him. Andras helps Bastian feel safe and protected. He makes him laugh and break free of the rigid life he has been living in an attempt to please people who will never care about or support him. So there is a really nice character arc here for Bastian.

I found Andras a little less relatable. I think in part this is because when we meet him, he is basically this sort of smoke/shadow thing that escapes one body and inhabits another. We see him struggle to settle into and control the new body, so he didn’t feel like a person at the start of the book to me as much as sort of a smoke monster driving a body like a puppet. Over time, that feeling settled down and Andras began to feel more human to me, which helped. But I think we still don’t get to know him well, largely because there are so many questions surrounding him that are either never answered, or not answered until late in the story. We know he is not a normal shade, but what actually is he? Where did he come from? Where was he before to entering his previous body last week? Who cursed him and why? What is his ultimate goal with the Casters and his revenge plot? We know that the Casters have been tracking Andras, but after the initial fight with Bastian, we don’t learn much more. The story is told in dual POVs, which is sort of strange here because even when we are in Andras’ POV, he never thinks about or addresses any of these questions. He finds an ally who is involved in this plot with him, and even when alone, the two never discuss any details about their past and what they are planning. This is presumably to keep the reader in the dark on some big reveals, but it resulted in me feeling kept at somewhat of a distance from Andras as a character since he never opens up about anything, even in his own thoughts or private conversations.

I found the world building interesting as Bastian and the other Casters fight the shades, as well as face this new and concerning threat. We meet many members of the Caster group and see them interacting at the compound and it is clear something not quite right is going on (not to mention super oppressive, as the Elders rule with a firm hand). Toward the end, we get a lot of surprising revelations on a variety of fronts and the end of this story sets things up well for the next book, though there isn’t really a resolution here to most of the conflict. But as with Andras, I felt that there were too many open questions that don’t get addressed until late, or even at all, which made it a little more difficult to really sink into this one.

Alice Winters is such an excellent writer and I really enjoy her style. This one isn’t quite as comedic as some of her other works, but Andras does provide the humorous side and I loved watching him help pull Bastian out of his shell. There are some interesting ideas here and I found myself curious about how things are developing, so I will be looking forward to the next book to see how it all unfolds.

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