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#87 Shade’s Children by Garth Nix

The world has changed a lot in fourteen years. After a cataclysmic event that resulted in everyone over the age of fourteen vanishing, earth is now ruled by cruel overloads. Children are raised in dormitories until they reach the age of fourteen. At that point they are sent to the Meat Factory where their organs, brains, and muscles are harvested and used to make violent creatures that serve as pawns in the battles between the overlords. Gold-Eye, who has the ability to see the future, manages to escape from the dorms and is rescued by three teenagers who consider themselves Shade’s children. Shade, who was once human, has made it his life’s mission to bring the world back to the way it once was, but does he really have his children’s best interests in mind?

There are many things that Shade’s Children does very well. Like his well-known Abhorsen Trilogy, which mixes fantasy and horror, Shade’s Children mixes sci-fi and horror, and it does it quite well. The concept of having your bodies mutilated into these horrible creatures is quite creepy, and the idea that you might keep a fragment of your sense of self through it all is downright terrifying. Nix also does a good job of presenting us with five interesting leads, Gold-Eye, Ninde, Ella, Drum, and of course Shade. The author not take the easy way out when it comes to characterization, instead presenting us with individuals that are flawed, and complex. On a conceptual level, Shade’s Children does very well, giving us interesting characters, a solid setting, and a plot worthy of a Hollywood Blockbuster. Unfortunately, the execution of these great idea is somewhat flawed.

Shade’s Children is divided up into short chapters with mini “confessionals” (or video recordings of Shade and his children reflecting on the state of the world, and how it came to be that way) inserted in-between. The confessionals are great because they allow us to learn about the characters, and the world without breaking up the action-packed storyline. The actual chapters themselves are more problematic. The novel is told in a third-person omniscient viewpoint that jumps from character to character very quickly, and it’s done somewhat sloppily. By not focusing on one character per scene, combined with a lightning fast pace, the reader has a hard time connecting with it’s main characters, as if the writer has put up a wall between us and them. This can also lead to really elementary writing mistakes, such as a violation of the almighty “show, don’t tell" rule and dialogue that can be sub-par. I also felt that the pace of the novel was at times, too rushed and the development of certain characters (mainly Shade at the end of the book) seemed forced. Not to mention that the overlords, although creepy, end up feeling underdeveloped.

Despite its original plot line and well thought out horror elements, Shade’s Children is a flawed book. Although there are many things about it I enjoyed (the concept, the characters of Ella and Drum, the confessional sections), it’s somewhat uneven execution prevented me from fully enjoying the book. As a result, I don’t necessarily think that Shade’s Children is a bad book, but it’s not really a good one either. Perhaps it would have done better as a screenplay or graphic novel.

Rating: three stars
Length: 345 pages
Source: library sale
Similar Books: For more young adult dystopias, check out The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (my review), Feed by M.T. Anderson, and The Giver by Lois Lowry. This book also reminded me a bit of the movie, The Matrix.
Other books I've read by this author: Sabriel, Lireal, Abhorsen, Across the Wall, Mister Monday, Grim Tuesday

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