Title: Stalking Shadows
Author: Cyla Panin
Genre: YA Fantasy / Retelling
Publication Date: September 14th, 2021
Publisher: Amulet Books
Thank you to the publisher and netgalley for an earc to review! All opinions are my own.
“A gothic YA fantasy debut about a young woman striving to break her sister’s curse and stop the killing in her small French town
Seventeen-year-old Marie mixes perfumes to sell on market day in her small eighteenth-century French town. She wants to make enough to save a dowry for her sister, Ama, in hopes of Ama marrying well and Marie living in the level of freedom afforded only to spinster aunts. But her perfumes are more than sweet scents in cheap, cut-glass bottles: A certain few are laced with death. Marie laces the perfume delicately—not with poison but with a hint of honeysuckle she’s trained her sister to respond to. Marie marks her victim, and Ama attacks. But she doesn’t attack as a girl. She kills as a beast.
Marking Ama’s victims controls the damage to keep suspicion at bay. But when a young boy turns up dead one morning, Marie is forced to acknowledge she might be losing control of Ama. And if she can’t control her, she’ll have to cure her. Marie knows the only place she’ll find the cure is in the mansion where Ama was cursed in the first place, home of Lord Sebastien LeClaire. But once she gets into the mansion, she discovers dark secrets hidden away—secrets of the curse, of Lord Sebastien . . . and of herself.” (Goodreads)
I wanted to love this one as in ways it had some Beauty and the Beast vibes although there was some genderbending. I did think it was a fun tale but there were just some aspects that lacked as well.
The book is told from the perspective of Marie. She tries to protect her sister as much as she can although it’s hard because she turns into a beast. I do think this was very interesting and had me kept reading to find out what would happen next. The plot veers onto a different path not short after and Marie is now working for the Lord who’s house may have cursed her sister in the first place.
I didn’t hate the direction the plot took but at the same time we are told from the beginning of the bond between the sisters, Marie and Ama. I know she was trying to fix the curse but she also just left her sister alone which kind of feels the opposite to what she was doing. Because of this change, there wasn’t much between Marie and Ama besides the beginning and then after around 50% or so. There is also another sibling bond between the Lord Sebastien and his younger brother. Marie takes advantage of this and claims she can help the poor boy who is terribly sick. It put Marie in a bad light for me. I understand what she was trying to do but putting a sick kid at risk is just as bad as what she is trying to stop in my opinion.
It was hard to connect with the characters on a deeper level since it felt like the story was more plot driven. Some characters lacked depth and some just felt thrown in to keep the book going. Sebastien and Marie had the most which makes sense since they had more page time.
The magic system wasn’t explained very well and I’m still confused why some had magic and were able to use it.
Overall, this was good but also just an average fantasy / retelling. I wish it had more depth for the characters and the magic.