Dear Ashley: An Unconventional Review of ‘Rising Shadows’

Dear Ashley,

This is totally not how ever conduct my reviews.

However, when you contacted me about reviewing the second book in your trilogy, Chasing Shadows, I wanted to read and review the first book – well, first.  You shared a few things with me about the some of the differences I might note between Rising Shadows  and its sequel, and mentioned that your family thinks you undersell this first book in your trilogy.  I hardly know you at all, but based on what you told me, I’d like to tell you something.  Your family is right.

Here’s why:

I couldn’t put Rising Shadows down.  I put books down all of the time – it’s a necessity of my busy life and I wouldn’t get anything else done otherwise.  I just find a good stopping point, bookmark it, and pick it up later.  I couldn’t find a good stopping point with this book; I wanted to know what was coming next the entire time.

Sarah is now on my list of favorite female protagonists.  No, really, there’s a list. I’ve noticed a trend in Christian YA Fantasy of female protagonists who whine-and-pine over love interests, and that’s essentially the entire story.  That wasn’t the case with Sarah in Rising Shadows – she just wants adventure before settling into the routine of college (and everything that comes after that), and she doesn’t seem to want a romance to be that adventure.  She relates to people in real ways: she experiences awkwardness, anger, and even jealousy.  Beyond that, she’s direct and has a sense of humor.  Seriously, what’s not to love?

And that brings me to my favorite character, Will.  I get Will, and I am so thankful for the grace and empathy you displayed writing his character.  Most Christian writers don’t have the ability to write a character like him without getting preachy, but you did an excellent job.  There was actually a point where Will was discussing some of his issues, and I actually cried.  Granted, I’m a little emotional this week, but still…

Which brings me to Will. Again.  Because besides relating to him, he’s actually this really knowledgeable and skilled character, with an incredible sense of purpose.

“To stop yourself from feeling is like ceasing to live; life no longer holds meaning.  Hurt, anger, pain, desire, compassion, love – they’re what make us human.  They’re what living is all about. Being able to feel is something we shouldn’t take for granted or push away when offered.”

Besides Sarah and Will, Rising Shadows has a great cast of characters.  I am a huge fan of Dickens, so I love widely-varied casts of characters. I really enjoyed Karen and the Joneses.  I would have loved a closer look at some of the villains, to get a stronger sense of what we’re up against, but that may just be personal preference.  I am also not sure what Lilly’s role is, but I’m betting I’ll find that out as the series continues.

It has all of the elements I love.  Time travel, an alternate universe (ish), world-building, action, romance, beautiful gowns, and even a ball.  You know, elements that lend themselves to a great Pinterest Board.

As such I give Rising Shadows 4.5 out of 5 stars, and highly recommend it for fans of The Princess Bride and Stardust.  (It’s nothing like either, but it reminded me of them, if that makes any sense).

Of course, as an author myself, I completely understand where you’re coming from – sometimes it’s a struggle to love our own work, because we do grow and change.  That’s as it should be.

I’m just saying – you’ve got a great story here.


Your newest fan

P.S. I promise I will give a normal review of Chasing Shadows.



About Rising Shadows (from Amazon):

Sarah Matthews didn’t think a little taste of adventure this summer was too much to ask. But when she finds herself transported to the twelfth century, she learns she must be careful what she wishes for.

After Sarah’s closest companion—and her ticket home—is arrested on charges of witchcraft, Sarah finds herself trapped in this dangerous land and alone in her knowledge of a dangerous conspiracy. Knowing that she has no chance of stopping the treachery and saving her friend on her own, Sarah seeks help from the Shadow, a masked hero who has already saved her life once. As they work together to unravel the truth before it’s too late, Sarah realizes that it isn’t the Shadow who she’s come to rely on, but Will, a handsome and intriguing blacksmith who’s plagued by the secrets and pains of his past.

About Ashley Townsend (from Amazon):

Ashley is a young twenty-something who has been spinning tales since she discovered that her wild imagination and love of storytelling could make a career. Reading and writing are her way of experiencing grand adventures from home, and her first two books “Rising Shadows” and “Chasing Shadows” became a way for others to join in her fantastical escapades. She is a native to bookstores, coffee shops, the beach, and San Diego, CA. She also has an unexplainable aversion to clowns and describes outlines as a “proverbial noose.” Follow her quirkiness on her blog, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Goodreads.


3 thoughts on “Dear Ashley: An Unconventional Review of ‘Rising Shadows’

  1. Pingback: Happy Women in Fiction Day! | Lydia Thomas, Author

  2. Reblogged this on Ashley Townsend and commented:
    This review had me in tears…… Of sweetness and joy! I honestly could not believe Lydia enjoyed Book I in the Rising Shadows trilogy so much. I queried her to read and review Chasing Shadows, but she insisted on buying Rising Shadows first. Now, many of you know that I can be rather self-conscious of my first effort as a real writer, and my style and ability have shifted quite a bit since I first penned the start of Sarah’s time traveling adventures in Serimone. So when Lydia told me that she was insisting on starting with the first book, I launched into my under-selling explanation of why the book is so “simple”: “I was really young when I wrote it”; “My ability has progressed sooo much since then”; “Don’t let it stop you from reading Chasing Shadows.”
    I was honestly anticipating her thinking the first book was so boring that she wouldn’t even get around to the book I wanted her to review. So you can imagine my surprise to find an email from her simply stating “Your family is right; you do undersell it” and a link to her glorious review of Rising Shadows. . . . Yes, she LOVED IT!!! Her review is completely unconventional in the sense that it’s written as a letter of encouragement address to ME, gushing about how Sarah is one of her favorite heroines in fiction history and that she adores Will so much that he had her crying. Haha.
    Just follow the link to the original post and check it out for yourself before I spoil it for you. And take this as encouragement that you don’t have to undersell things that are important to you or pretend that you failed just because someone might criticize your efforts and you want to beat them to the punch (actually, I’ve never really received a negative review for any of my books—go figure!). God has a great plan in store for all of us that does NOT include fear, and if it’s important to you, it’s definitely important to Him.
    Oh, yeah, and Lydia still wants to read Chasing Shadows. ^_^ Who knew?!


  3. Pingback: Broken Things Are Worth Fighting For, Too: A Review of Chasing Shadows | Lydia Thomas, Author

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