A Shadowed Beginning by Alice J. Black Review

I was sent this book by the author in exchange for an honest review. 


Ruby Dawson is about to discover a whole new world—one of demons and devils. Following the death of her father four years ago, Ruby is sure her life can’t get any harder. Living in a care home for girls, struggling with the last two years of school and working part time at an employment agency seem almost too much at times. And then she sees the man with the crescent scar. He’s a memory from her past and one that she knows will have answers. He’s the last link to her dad. Ruby goes looking for answers but only ends up with more questions as everything she thought she knew was real is turned upside down and her own life becomes all too connected with a world she didn’t know existed.

Alice J. Black’s A Shadowed Beginning is a YA paranormal novel that promises an ominous story filled with elusive demons and those hunting them but ultimately is very light on the demons and danger. 

From the start of this book, some things didn’t make sense. I was immediately left wondering why Ruby doesn’t begin seeing demons—the cursed, as they’re called—until she’s told her father was a demon hunter. I would think it’d make more sense for her to start seeing things, be confused, then start looking for answers. Instead, the book opens with her chasing a mysterious stranger who she recalled seeing at her father’s funeral four years ago only for him to tell her what her father’s real job was. Then the sightings begin. That doesn’t add up nicely for me and it set up for a disappointing story.

The plot fell flat for most of the story. Things developed slowly, which can be good, but the book is too full of mundane daily life so it dragged along. We see Ruby learn a little about demon hunting and things start happening that disrupt her routine and sense of calm but it never felt like there was any real danger. It read like I was meant to understand that there was danger but the stakes never felt high enough for me to worry. A big issue I had with the book is how little we learned about demon hunting. We get a quick rundown of the whole ordeal that basically just introduces the world to Ruby, but we’re never immersed in a demon hunting world. Most of the book is just Ruby’s daily life and the small things that are frightening her and disrupting that routine.

So little was explained about demons and hunting them that the actual threat in this story never felt as dangerous as it should’ve. If we don’t know anything about regular demons, how are we supposed to realize how much bigger a threat the thing haunting Ruby is? It was told to readers that it was worse but it still didn’t pack the punch it should’ve. The lack of real involvement in the demon hunting world made everything seem distant and the focus was on the small happenings Ruby had to deal with using meager defenses—all she was given was salt, iron and a flashlight. I find it difficult to believe that’s all that would be needed to fight demons, even if Ruby is only a beginner. It should take more to defeat them. Some physical training came later but I find it unbelievable that she wouldn’t be given any real knowledge of the demon world when introduced to its existence. I would’ve enjoyed learning more about the world and exactly what was going on with the main threat. Ruby would’ve benefitted from it and it could’ve added depth to the plot and world. The end of the book also fell short of anything exciting and, though I felt the story lacked a sense of anticipation in general, was really anticlimactic. 

The characters were decent, although they did feel like archetypes. Conversations were mostly well written without a sense of unnaturalness. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case for Ruby’s thoughts. She spent too much time in her own thoughts restating the situation she was in and thinking in a way that didn’t feel normal. The inner dialogue came across more as author exposition than actual character thoughts and had an overall forced feel. An example: “It was like I needed to know something else existed in the world, that a man as great as my dad couldn’t be felled by something so natural as a heart attack.” That sounds more like someone else’s observations of Ruby than her own realizations about her feelings.

The writing contributed to the feeling of the story being dragged down and slow. It was decent and descriptive but it often spent too long describing each little thing that just seemed unnecessary. There was also a fair amount of telling instead of showing and often action and thoughts felt narrated instead of feeling like they were really happening. 

Overall, this book was mildly entertaining but lacked any real depth of world and plot to really hold my interest. Thank you to Alice J. Black for sending me a copy for review. 


Thanks for reading!


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