Shiloh by Helena Sorenson
Goodreads | Amazon
Release Date: April 16th 2013
Series: I think it’s the first book in a series.
Goodreads description: In a world of perpetual darkness, a boy is born who wields remarkable power over fire. Amos is no more than seven when he kills a Shadow Wolf and becomes a legend in Shiloh. He would be destined for great things were it not for the stories his father tells about a world beyond the Shadow and a time before the Shadow. Only madmen hold to such tales, and in Shiloh, they have always come to bad ends.
Amos is fearless. He walks with easy confidence, certain that the Shadow cannot touch him. Even his family is in awe of him. His father marvels at his skill with the bow, his mother thanks the gods that he has all the courage she lacks, and his sister, Phebe, worships him for saving her from an attack of the Shadow Cats.
On a trip to the village of Emmerich, Amos rescues the Magistrate’s son, Simeon, from the village bullies. Simeon, fair-skinned and pale-eyed like other Dreamers in Shiloh’s history, becomes Amos’s constant companion and dearest friend. Simeon becomes a part of Amos’s family, listening to fireside stories told in a way he’s never heard them before and learning to wield a bow and arrow.
The year the boys turn twelve, they are itching to prove themselves. An impetuous plan to steal a beautiful lantern goes miserably awry, and the lantern’s owner prophecies that Amos will be devoured by the Shadow. For the first time, a seed of fear is planted in Amos’s mind, and when his father is killed by a Shadow Wolf on the last day of the Great Hunt, the fear takes hold. If so great and brave a man as his father could fall to the Shadow, what hope has he?
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I received a finished eBook for review from the publisher.
Shiloh is a world of darkness, of the Shadow. There are stories of light beyond the Shadow: a lantern in the sky, or stars at night. To most, these stories are foolish and inconceivable. The people of Shiloh have only known darkness.
In Shiloh, Amos is a legend for killing a Shadow Wolf when he was only seven. However, as amazing and fearless as young Amos is, his family is still different. His father Abner has strange beliefs in old tales of lights. Wynn is his worried mother, and his sister Phebe is scarred from a Shadow Cat attack. Amos befriends another outsider named Simeon from cruel village children. They become fast friends and Simeon sort of becomes part of the family. Simeon grows to believe the stories Abner tells. He is meek and in awe of how fearless Amos is.
When Amos and Simeon are twelve, they are excited to finally get to go on the Great Hunt. Unfortunately, Abner is killed by a Shadow Wolf and it changes everything (note: this is in the description so I’m not really spoiling here). Amos changes completely and becomes afraid for the first time in his life. He’s approached by a dark man who leads him down a dark path.
I think of this story as having three parts: when the boys are young and they meet, when they’re twelve and the hunt happens, and after the hunt. A lot of the story feels like setup for the rest of the story. Important information is given, but it seems like a lot of telling until Abner dies. It was interesting but it also felt slow. A lot happened, but it also felt like I was waiting for something to happen. There were a few times I had to push to keep reading, but I’m glad I did. There’s a lot more actions after the hunt.
Amos is frustrating and I wasn’t a fan. After his father dies, he’s in turmoil and lets everything he knows fall into darkness. He gives up hope and leaves his home and family. He’s gone for over five years and when he comes back, he isn’t pleasant. He hurts someone emotionally which leads to something awful. Then he just snaps out of it and feels bad. It was strange how easy his remorse came after spending so much time in anger.
There’s also Isolde, from another clan. She’s heard stories of Amos and the old stories. She’s unhappy and wants more for life, so she goes out on her own. She sort of roams and adventures looking for Valour’s Glass, an important lost relic. She also shows up right at the opportune moment to go on a quest with Amos and Simeon. It was kind of random that she just showed up. I think it would have made more sense if she’d been there earlier and met them before. She was a strong character and she was frustrated with men being in charge of her life, so she was likable.
Simeon and Phebe were my favorite of the four main characters. Simeon is so timid when he’s small but he works hard and grows up strong. He also seems very kind and determined. Phebe is disfigured and lonely, but she still sings on. She still has hope.
My favorite part of the story was the lore. The creation story was unique and I loved it: “Whenever one of the Immortals (for so they came to be called) saw in another Immortal an image that matched something in his own mind, that image came to life.” The Night Weavers were creepy things that came when one was feeling extremely depressed and vulnerable. Shadow Wolves and Shadow Cats are fierce animals hunting the people of the world. Darkness is a common theme, but for everything to be darkness? The world is dark, how do they see? How do they function? It was difficult to grasp but I liked it. I liked the hope that some of the people had. I loved that they were light themselves.
I feel like the people are complacent to the darkness, but they also seem to be waiting for something else. They’re skeptical of the stories but maybe they are reluctant to hope for something better. Their lives are difficult and I think they want something more but the thought of any change is frightening. Perhaps hope is crushing because of how unlikely it seems. They have so much to fear and it seems like it would be easy to ridicule people who are brave enough to believe in a completely better life.
I enjoyed this book. There were issues but there was a lot to enjoy about the story. It kept drawing my thoughts back to it when I was doing other things. I’m pretty sure Sorenson has more books planned in this world, and I am very interested in reading them. I recommend this if you’re looking to take a chance on something different; it’s not for everyone but it might be for you!
Check out Helena Sorenson‘s website and twitter!
Sounds like I would cheer for Phebe too with her optimism.