Shadow Heir (Dark Swan 4)
- - Richelle Mead
Publisher: UK – Bantam
**Warning contains spoilers from the first three books**
Shaman-for-hire Eugenie Markham strives to keep the mortal realm safe from trespassing entities. But as the Thorn Land's prophecy-haunted queen, there's no refuge for her and her soon-to-be-born-children when a mysterious blight begins to devastate the Otherworld...
The spell-driven source of the blight isn't the only challenge to Eugenie's instincts. Fairy king Dorian is sacrificing everything to help, but Eugenie can't trust the synergy drawing them back together. The uneasy truce between her and her shape shifter ex-lover Kiyo is endangered by secrets he can't--or won't--reveal. And as a formidable force rises to also threaten the human world, Eugenie must use her own cursed fate as a weapon--and risk the ultimate sacrifice...
As far as I know this is the fourth and final book in Eugenie’s story and a lot is packed into a short space! Not only does Eugenie have to cope with pregnancy and the disturbing prophecy that says her son will conquer the human world, there is a blight to deal with, her mixed feelings for fey King, Dorian and her ex-trying to kill her and her unborn children. Despite all this going, there doesn’t appear to much urgency for much of the book. As these events take place several months, the pace seems slower than previous instalments. There is a lot of introspective contemplation as Eugenie struggles to do what is right for her children, for her kingdoms and for the human world.
Eugenie is still a very proactive heroine, more than willing to tackle issues head on – whether that includes wielding gentry magic, kicking butt or speaking her mind. She feels much more comfortable in her role as queen now and her use of gentry magic is now effortless which is a big change from we started at book one. Her relationships with those around her have changed as well – especially with Dorian, her stepfather Roland and her sister, Jasmine. I also liked how becoming a mother changed her and even the little worries she had over regaining her previous physicality made her easy to relate too – always a worry with characters with such phenomenal powers.
I do have one issue with the story, which I can’t go into a lot of detail as it’s a big spoiler, but to me there is an element introduced at a late stage that seems very convenient – a get-out-of-jail-free card that spoilt some of the grey moral area that Mead had built up prior to that. Personally, I liked that there were no easy answers and this one introduction seemed to undermine some of that. However, it doesn’t completely clear the deck as Eugenie is still left with a very big decision to make – the result of which has the possibility of dividing readers. However, I was happy with the ending although I could see plenty of opportunity to revisit Eugenie’s worlds in a few years’ time!
Recommended for fans of Jennifer Estep and Kim Harrison. 8 out of 10.