Book Review: The Shadow Society by Marie Rutkoski
By Jenny MaloneyOctober 13, 2012
It is every teenager’s dream to find out that they are part of something special. They want to find out they have magical powers and can go to wizarding boarding schools. They dream of being whisked away to far-off lands through a wardrobe.But….
In some cases the dream means just being a part of a normal family. And that happens to be the case with the main character in Marie Rutkoski’s new novel The Shadow Society. Sixteen-year-old Darcy Jones has been shuffled from foster home to foster home, unable to remember anything before she was abandoned outside a fire station in Chicago, so a dream of normalcy means more to her than most teenagers.
My first day back at Lakebrook High seemed innocent enough. I walked toward the beginning of my junior year in a fine spirit, scuffing my combat boots along the hot pavement. I was happy for a simple reason. For once, I wouldn’t be the new girl, and I had friends. Sometimes being able to scrape a hard red chair up to a lunch table with the handful of people who accepted me was all I wanted. It was my second year at the same school. It was a personal record.
Darcy, of course, is far from a normal teenager. Sure, she’s got friends. Caring, supportive friends. Yeah, she’s got a typical teen job as a barista in a café. She has an aptitude for art. She has a crush on the new guy at school.
It’s always a guy that throws things for a loop, isn’t it?
Darcy’s first impression of Conn McCrea is the neck-prickling sensation of being watched.
There was a boy standing in the shadow of an oak tree. His stance seemed easy, even lazy. But his expression was electric, tense, taut as a corded wire I could tightrope-walk across.
Conn is intense. He understands T.S. Eliot’s poetry. He protects her from weirdos outside cafés. He’s interested—very interested—in her past. He’s got a motorcycle.
He’s hunting Darcy.
Because, no matter how much she would wish otherwise, Darcy is a Shade. Which means, among other things, she can become invisible:
For a moment, every sensation and thought was a sharp, clear crystal. The sound of Marsha’s scream. The blistering ache of my hands. A bitterness on my tongue. Conn stumbling toward me. The shining blade.
My heart shrank, curling into itself. But a knife couldn’t hurt it more than it already had been.
Then, just as the knife should have pierced my skin, I vanished.
I had been looking down, unable to tear my eyes away from my soaked shirt and the blade about to rip through it, when suddenly I wasn’t there anymore. I was gone. I was air. I was nothing.
Turns out, in the five years before Darcy was dropped in front of the fire station, she was part of an alternate dimension in which Shades, like her, hunt humans. Shades make up the Shadow Society, a terrorist organization that has been killing humans for years.
And Conn is an agent for the Interdimensional Bureau of Investigation (IBI), the organization responsible for stopping the Shades. As agent Fitzgerald of the IBI explains:
“Shades look human, but certainly are not. They can become incorporeal at will, and have used that against us, and more. Look: the May Day Massacre of 1916.” An image of corpses with slashed throats lit up the wall behind her.
Normalcy, even interdimensional normalcy (is there such a thing?), is off the table for Darcy. She has to make a choice: be held indefinitely by the IBI as a prisoner, or help the IBI infiltrate the Shadow Society—a group that has no qualms about killing—and protect the human race.
Rutkoski has created some real-world headaches in this teen novel. There’s bureaucracy and rules. There’s poetry and pre-calc. Right beside those headaches are all the intrigues of a supernatural spy novel. Darcy has to use all of the natural and supernatural resources at her disposal to unsnarl the tangles of her past in order to gain some kind of safe future.