Stalking Shadows by Cyla Panin
So, I was contacted by the wonderful Ellen Whitfield at Books Forward about reading and reviewing a book called Stalking Shadows that, based on my undying love of A Curse so Dark and Lonely I might be interested in reviewing prior to publication. Long story short I was given a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review prior to publication to basically build up the hype around this awesome book. The book is published on the 14th so I’m not amazing at hyping up the book prior to release (clearly, unless it’s an academic or business-ey type deadline I suck at time management and deadlines)
First off, I do have to explain that staying awake for the whole day has been somewhat of a challenge this year and last. Nothing to do with how interested I am in the actual book I’m reading. “But Rhona” I hear you cry ” didn’t you manage to read more than 120 books by the end of June?” And yes, I did but for the most part I chose books I was able to finish in a day also absurdly I have also been suffering from some wicked insomnia so this year and last, I would routinely wake at around 2 or 3am and not be able to get back to sleep or still be awake at 11pm but just be wide awake, hence finding and reading books I could finish quickly and easily.
Not that I just read “trash” a couple of my absolute favourite series finished this year and reading those books killed me. Just so much ugly crying.
You may, or may not also be aware that one of the reasons for my sleepiness and reading everything is that since late last year I’ve been stuck in a wheelchair but for the most part I’ve been bedbound with SI Joint Dysfunction on my left side (which, surprise surprise isn’t actually connected to any of my other fun medical issues!) I was supposed to get a steroid injection for it last year but of course with all the insanity and fun times the pandemic has caused, I haven’t been able to get it. At first it was just really bad pain, and sitting or standing for long periods hurt but then in early November I stood up in the living room to go to bed and couldn’t actually walk so wheelchair fun times!
Anyway, the zombie drugs I was prescribed before my hospital adventure in 2019 can take the edge off some of the referred pain and stop spasming (which is just a whole boat load of fun) but can’t do anything for the actual SI pain. It’s just kind of a waiting game to see when I can finally get the injection but until then it’s lots of sleep and lots of reading (as that is kind of all I can physically do right now)
Anyway, after that lengthy and probably unnecessary explanation let’s get down to the actual point of this blog post!
Let’s start with the stars: a lot! Many, many more than the 5 allowed by Goodreads.
Obviously since the book is only published on the 14th we’re dealing with many, many spoilers too! Only read ahead at your own risk!!!!
(Can we also talk about how freaking awesome this cover is?)
The official blurb I was given is:
In a small 18th century provincial French town, Marie concocts perfumes to sell — but she’s also brewing them to mark her sister’s victims. Because Ama changes into a beast every month and needs to kill to eat. But when a child is killed for the first time, Marie worries she’s lost control of her sister. When Marie sets out to discover the source of Ama’s curse, she also uncovers dark secrets.
Maybe it’s ‘cause it’s set in a provincial town in France or because Ellen sent in to me because of my interest in A Curse but I was totally getting Beauty and the Beast vibes while reading it.
I’ve been keeping notes on my phone during reading for the purposes of future reviews so often, my reviews end up just being random Tweet length comments I have during the reading such as my thoughts on this quote:
“He better be, Marie. He better be.”
Well, that is a creepy ass threat. In other news, I love the name Sebastian, but holy hell is he creepy right now.
The book was actually a lot creepier than I expected but I actually really loved this element. I don’t often choose to read thrillers, partly because I tend to read late at night and clearly, I am still a child since I get scared by these books then can’t sleep because of the possible creepy monsters in the dark.
But oh holy drama! Every time I think I have a handle on what’s going on, and maybe start thinking I know what plots are afoot the plot thickens again and something new and shocking happens!! Ahhh so tense! Yet, another example of tweeting as I read but yea, this book was tense as all hell. But I loved it.
Marie has all this familial guilt, about Ama; about her father; about how she just isn’t doing enough for her family. She feels guilty about taking simple pleasures for herself, even if it is just playing a child’s game with Lucien. It makes me wonder – as I often do when reading tales of siblings like this – how much guilt does Ama hold? Of course, she must feel guilty about killing as the monster (at least, I hope so) but does she feel the same level of familial guilt as Marie? Does this guilt stop her from taking pleasure in things just for her, regardless of how small?
Also, it’s kinda clear how guilty Sebastian feels over his parents’ death and Lucian’s health. So much guilt, so much tension. Yea, I mean we find out by the end that Marie can also transform into a monster “protector” but the guilt is still there for her. Is it for Ama?
The fangirl in me is so extremely happy that by the end Marie and Sebastian are more or less together because I was internally screaming that they needed to be together throughout most of the book – maybe their shared guilt is something that brings them together?)
Oh, look at that! I’m crying again. I mean, c’mon people it’s me. Did we really expect anything less? I was crying at the last book review I wrote so there’s that. At least this time part of the sobbing is when Sebastian’s mother finally died. Parental deaths are just a thing for me, ok? I mean, it’s a fairly universal theme that people cry about so I don’t know why I’m acting special. Anyway, I’m going off on a tangent. Back to the review!
Also, the idea of Ama changing once a month felt like an allegory for menstruation. Was this intentional by Panin? Yes, by the end Marie can control her transformations and is teaching Ama (who, by the way is annoying as all hell by the end) but then menstruation can be and is controlled by various methods of birth control so it’s still a very plausible theory. (I like pointless and tiny conspiracy theories like this – is this even classed as a conspiracy theory?)
This book was entirely different that what I expected in such a good way! I’m still on the fence regarding creepy thrillers (the fictional mass murderer is definitely hiding in the dark in my room) but I’m definitely interested in reading more by Panin if I get the chance! It turns out that I really like the whole Beauty and the Beast retellings; I also adore complex sibling relationships in books! It’s completely normal that even though I now have a kindle copy of this book that I want a paper copy too, right?
I’m gonna start rambling soon! Point is, this was a very cool, very creepy book that kept me guessing right to the end!
See you in the future! ♥