Score: 92/100 (9.2 out of 10)
The Last Shadow is an exciting, classic monster-hunting adventure by Michael Hardy!
The book follows monster hunter Kris Hellion, a vampire with a century's worth of experience but the appearance of a 10-year-old girl, and Nadia Jelia, an orphaned, homeless being known as a shadowin--a girl without a shadow yet having shadow powers.
Although Kris largely serves as the active protagonist—the William Wallace—of the novel, Nadia serves as the one who experiences the most growth, making her the Robert the Bruce of the novel. Nadia is really the central character and the main focus as she wrestles through her personal issues and comes in tune with what makes her different and special.
Nadia has lived a life of abandonment, feeling unwanted and unloved. As far as she knows, she was abandoned like trash by her birth parents and later rejected by the one person she considered a friend, Sister Annabelle. Sister Annabelle discovered and helped raise Nadia when she was an infant, finding only a letter from one of Nadia's birth parents to look after her. She was able to look past Nadia's lack of a shadow, saying that “Lord works in mysterious ways” and even gave the shadowin her precious cross necklace as a sign of their friendship and the love of God. However, an incident involving an unleashing of Nadia's shadow powers led to Annabelle declaring Nadia a “DEVIL CHILD” and led to her leaving the institution under duress.
Nadia's arc is summarized in the lines:
“Please, please don't let me be alone anymore” and “What am I?”
She arrives in her home town to find that it has been all but abandoned too, only the local circus seems to be functioning, and it is run by an unscrupulous man who calls himself “the Ringmaster”--Alfredo. It immediately becomes clear that the Ringmaster is both a figurative and literal MONSTER, enticing, preying on, and exploiting rare, mythical beings and cryptids like Nadia.
Alfredo is a true monstrosity complete with a shark-like head complete with rows upon rows of razor-sharp teeth and a taste for eating other creatures alive. Worsening the state of things, the town appears to be overrun by malicious creatures called infestants that devour men, women, and children. The infestants also seem to behave like mind-altering parasites, able to inhabit and possess the minds of people like Alfredo, who seems to serve as their de facto queen in this hive-mind analogy.
Thankfully, Nadia is joined by the bad@$$ Kris, a monster hunter akin to Blade, Buffy, or Alice from Resident Evil. Not only is Nadia adept with weapons, kicks, and flips, she also comes armed with the coolest creature/character in the book: Maker, the turtle!
Maker isn't any ordinary turtle, he is a little creature with the potential to become a Gamera/Bowser-like turtle monster. He kinda reminded us of Kiwi from Shining Force II.
Now, meeting Alfredo, Kris, and Maker is pretty much the turning point of Nadia's entire life. In fact, her personality seems to change dramatically. She goes from being a relatively serious character to almost becoming like a girlie, childish, chibi anime character. You can almost hear the squeakiness in the voices of Nadia and Kris from the very moment they meet each other. They become chibis.
This book starts to become really quite hilarious and comical. This especially becomes apparent when Nadia starts nurturing and baby-talking the turtle.
She even threatens the baddies (yes, we're calling them that now) with: “Stay away! I've got a turtle and I'm not afraid to use it!”
She later says things like, “I mean how many names start with 'V', right?” and frequently responds to every instance of gore with, “Ewwww!”
She reacts to surprises with an “eep” or a “whoa!”
So, you start to get the feeling that Nadia is really childlike.
Kris isn't past that either, and she has her own brand of childlike humor. She responds to the death of an infestant by saying, “Alas, poor infestant, I knew you well.”
So, again, the entire serious tone of this book becomes entirely unserious. This really becomes a source of lighthearted, fun entertainment, probably appropriate for YA and teen audiences. However, there is a brief description of a human corpse being eaten to the bone by infestants. Beside that, the rest of this is pretty tame and fun.
Kris and Nadia make a great team, and they have great chemistry. Kris is able to educate Nadia of what she is and who she is, linking her to her mother and father. Kris and Nadia share a familial relationship as well.
There's a lot to love about this book. It's cute, it's fun, and it's comedic.
Check it out on Amazon!