Lorna Freeman’s Borderlands series has seen its ups and downs for me. Shadows Past is cut from the same cloth; I just felt like it took a long time to tell next to no story, and then all the good parts were crammed into the end.
The main character, Rabbit, has been constantly changing throughout this series. His story is very interesting, between his upbringing in a wild and magical part of the world and his ties to the royalty of a nearby nation. His growth as a person and his maturation, however, still leave me very uncomfortable. I just don’t buy into his weak demeanor when he has spent so much time as a soldier and has been through the hard experiences he has. Freeman can’t seem to make up her mind between making him a tough trooper or a mooning boy-child.
Shadows Past follows Rabbit on a journey to the far-off province of Mearden, where he is being looked at as a potential match for a noble’s daughter. It makes sense considering what has happened in the rest of the books thus far, but again, Rabbit still seems too much like a boy rather than a maturing young man. There are some explanations for his behavior that just seem a bit weak when compared to the powerful person he is supposed to be growing into.
Rabbit’s adventures in Mearden felt like he was walking through a fog for most of the story. His reactions just don’t add up to me. There are plenty of interesting events, however, and Freeman keeps building the world and the very complex inter-relations of magic and normal people. Good stuff.
Shadows Past is another good installment. You need to be up to speed on the Borderlands series to be able to really follow it well. I wish I’d reread the other two books before reading this, because there were a lot of plot threads that I had trouble tracking. On the whole, though, Shadows Past is a good book once things really get going.
Rabbit, apprentice mage, erstwhile backwoods soldier, and new heir to the throne of Iversterre and adopted kin of the Elf King of the Border, now has an even more unexpected complication to his life: a marriage proposal for the daughter of a powerful and wealthy lord. When the royal court decides to go evaluate the potential princess on her home territory, they are met with some surprises: an elven castle; an enchanted forest; and disaster, dissension and distrust around every corner.
Shadows Past is the third book in Lorna Freeman’s Borderlands series which has followed Rabbit, a young man who fled from the magical Border to seek a life of normalcy in Iversterre, as he rose from his beginnings as a lowly border guard to become heir to the throne and an incredibly powerful mage. Shadows Past picks up in the aftermath of the demonic possession of Freston that was the focus of the last book, and gives Rabbit the opportunity to grow as a character and as a mage. The problem is that he doesn’t do either of these things.
The Borderlands books have always shone when it came to interesting characters. The premise of the overarching storyline — that humans are slowly becoming fae as the land that they wrested from the fae centuries ago has changed them — is a fascinating way of illuminating the true natures of the various characters. Rabbit’s captain becomes a dragon, and he regards his soldiers as his hoard. The King’s Council of trusted advisors is a pack of wolves, loyal to the alpha male. The king himself has become an elf. Much of the humor is found in the relationships among these personable characters.
Shadows Past shifts the focus from the characters to the story. Freeman is trying to both fill in the back story on multiple characters — both Suiden and Javes take on a few new interesting layers — and set up the action for the next two books. Freeman leaves the story on a cliffhanger, and doesn’t resolve most of the major emotional storylines that she has been laying out. Instead we retread the same ground we’ve covered in the last two books (I’m not sure how much more bickering between Rabbit’s guards I can stand), and don’t move forward. Rabbit’s lack of growth as a character is starting to grate. For example, Rabbit repeatedly notices that figures in the tapestries in the castle are moving, but with all of the magical mayhem that he has been through in the last two books, he never once thinks this is important enough to mention? He needs to show some sort of development and soon.
This review comes off very critical, but I did enjoy the story. Freeman writes some scenes that had me snickering — the disastrous dinner party springs readily to mind — and I loved the addition of Bertram as Rabbit’s personal cook. While Shadows Past did feel like a bit of a necessary transition from the first half of the story to the second half that is coming, it was an entertaining transition, and I am still looking forward to the next book. I recommend this book for those who have read the first two books in the series. If you haven’t read the first two books, this installment in the BORDERLANDS series is not where I would recommend starting, as it doesn’t showcase Lorna Freeman at her best.