My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I received The Shadow Land to review through Netgalley. Admittedly the cover drew me in and the description intrigued me.
I’m surprised that I enjoyed the book as much as I did because early on there were stylistic elements that I found difficult to wade through. Specifically the perspective changes between chapters were a little choppy to start and the protagonist failed to draw me in on her own merits. At times the pacing compelled me to put the book down out of frustration.
The story follows Alexandra, an American who travels to Bulgaria for nostalgic reasons and lands herself in the middle of intrigue and tragedy. However, Bulgaria itself is the story’s true protagonist and driving force which is why I rated the book as four rather than three stars. At times the exploration of Bulgaria held back the pacing and story resolution. Although Alexandra frustrated me for her youth and general inexperience, the story she follows through the past was enough to keep me turning the pages.
The real story follows Stoyan through the past and into the present as Alexandra tries to return something which winds up in her possession that she considers too precious not to return to the people who have lost it. It is this story which is compelling but also where I felt that Kostova’s choices as a writer were frustrating. Stoyan’s story is at the center of the book and rightly so. However, Alexandra’s part in the story feels contrived to make Bulgaria relatable to perhaps a romance or young adult audience because she is often very much a young girl wondering if the men around her find her attractive and blushing over them. Her own past and how it ties in with Bulgaria didn’t entirely feel like it fit nor did it feel like there had been a general resolution by the end.
Faults aside I would recommend the book because Kostova does accomplish some beautiful things in the course of the book. Stoyan’s story kept me enthralled and I enjoyed the way aspects of the story tied together. If you like a little romance and lightness beside heavier subjects I think this book accomplishes that fairly well. If you like travel and atmosphere it has that too. The aspects I didn’t enjoy were worth putting aside and I enjoyed the ride albeit with a few bumps.