There stands a door in ancient trees;
Not for weakened hands to reach.
Yet some have passed in earlier days,
When darkness reigned in evil ways.
Those aged stories, all forlorn
Will be retold with different names –
But stories, themes, remain the same.
Revenge’s sister Justice, sweet,
Stands tall in her own courtroom, keeps
A list of those who hold her dear,
And those who falsely call to her
While her dark sister whispers
Evil nothings in their ears.
(poem reprinted with permission by the author, Myndi Shafer)
Shrilugh (Shree-Loo) is the young adult romantic fantasy and debut novel by very talented author Myndi Shafer. At first I wanted to say if you love Twilight, you’ll love this. The problem is, this is so much better written! No offense to Stephanie Meyer (seriously, I did read all the Twilight series so I can hardly say they were horrible), but I enjoyed this story a lot more because it is beautifully told and well written, and the teen angst made sense to me where it didn’t in Twilight. Very real problems are happening in Shrilugh that would cause anyone, young adult or not, to be in complete turmoil.
This story was one emotional ride. I cheered, I cringed, I fretted, I stayed up way too late at night, I laughed, I cried, and my heart ached. If you love pure romance, and love experiencing the emotional stakes of others, you’ll like this story.
The protagonist, Ayden, has just graduated high school. As a “gift”, her sister tells her that she’s not really related at all and that she was found abandoned as a baby. The revelation is startling, to say the least, plus what comes after is horrifying. Her “father” and “sister” are truly horrible people who have made her life a living hell. She’s been looking forward to getting away from them, but now she’s not just getting away, she’s running for her life. Her father wants to kill her. Her boyfriend wants to save her. And a stranger has shown up to tell her she’s actually from another world entirely. She’s running from childhood, from her past, from her family, with very little to run towards except for the vague promise of a family she’s never known and another world she can hardly believe is real.
I’d angst too.
To me, there are two first lines for this story, because there’s a prologue. While I usually don’t think prologues are necessary, in this case I think it works just fine. Assuming you read the prologue, the first line is:
The Stranger ran, drawing in deep, even breaths as each foot pounded the ground in turn. Every leaf of every tree around him glowed with a warm, easy light, blocking out the dark night that hovered over the canopy of that thick forest.
He was looking for something – something he’d seen, something he’d used once before: a Door. He knew he was nearing it; the memory of this forest was permanently ingrained in his brain. Following the Soverign’s orders. Dragging a woman, guilty in the most innocent of ways, along with him.
I have to say this was one hell of a hook for me. All kinds of intriguing things happening here. A Stranger with a capital S, running through a forest of trees that glow, looking for a Door with a capital D. A mention of him dragging a woman “guilty in the most innocent of ways.” Innocently guilty? How is that possible? What happened, where was he dragging her to and why, and where the heck is he? Oh read on, read on!
After the prologue, the real story starts. The first lines:
Aydan Fulbert stood in line, tapping her toe impatiently. She was hot, sweating under the shapeless gown whose only redeeming value was the fact that it made her jewel-green eyes look even greener.
She looked at the students standing in line in front of her. Stockings and heels, hems and polished shoes showed under their gowns. She shifted nervously, suddenly anxious about the choice of clothes she wore hidden under the heat-trapping shroud she and her classmates were being forced to wear.
It’s a day in the life sort of beginning, but a day that most people remember vividly. Graduation Day. The day life changes. The day you leave being childhood and contemplate adulthood. I remember that stupid cloak they made us wear, the heat it generated… how I worried about what I wore underneath. (A dress, when I wasn’t used to wearing one). How nervous we all were, about everything. All of it captured in these few lines. I’m there with Aydan immediately. And I’m curious how her simple beginning of attending graduation will mesh with the Stranger of the prologue.
In short, I was double-hooked, big time.
I loved the idea of shrilugh, which it turns out is a tree that glows at night. Can you imagine not needing electric lights, because trees provide all the light you need? How cool would that be? I pictured them looking much like the plants in Avatar. Breathtakingly beautiful.
I didn’t like the society Ayden finds herself in on the other side, and I’m really hoping she finds a way to change it. The world building is so well done, and the story so well told, that I literally hated some of the people I met in the strange new world and marveled at how anyone could treat people the way they do without thinking twice. I’m expecting revolution at some point. At least, I hope there is one.
I really didn’t like how the story ended, because it didn’t. End, that is. The story simply stops. According to a note at the end of the story, the next installment in this series is due in October, and there’s a tease of the next book to keep you company while you wait. I hope it comes out soon, because I can hardly wait to find out what happens next!
If you’re a fan of fantasy romance, put this one on your To-Be-Read list. And then read it. You’ll be glad you did.