Timey-wimey, Robin Hood, & All the Feels (Defying Shadows Review)

My review is below, but first I just wanted to mention something!

Defying Shadows HAS BEEN NOMINATED for the August edition of a thing called Clash of the Titles, which YOU can help with by popping over HERE to vote (through August 31) on one of four featured books — which one sounds most interesting to you.

So shoo! Go vote!! 😀 Hurry! Time’s a-wasting!

(Get it…? Time…? Ahem.)

Then come back here and read this review because you don’t want to miss out on hearing all about a timey-wimey Robin Hood-ish adventure, right? 😉

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My Review

defyingshadowsDefying Shadows

(book #3 in the Rising Shadows Trilogy)

by Ashley Townsend

Age range: YA

Genre: Christian / Romance / Time Travel / Historical Fiction / Contemporary

Bonus: Retelling / Robin Hood

5starrating

“I laughed, I cried . . . it moved me, Bob.”*

*(Sorry to go all VeggieTales on you but the quote seemed appropriate. Ahem.)

THIS BOOK, PEOPLE. This review is going to be one of the hardest ones I’ve ever written, because almost all of my favorite things about it are in major spoiler territory… But part of the fun is going on this plot-twisty journey of discovery yourself when you read the book, so I’ll try to keep my review spoiler-free! 🙂

The third book in the Rising Shadows trilogy by Ashley Townsend, Defying Shadows, finally wraps up the adventures of Sarah and her friends in Serimone—and what a wrap-up! *flailing*

This book had EVERYTHING. List, because lists are grand:

  • time travel and everything timey-wimey involved with that
  • historical fiction of a medieval variety
  • contemporary parts
  • sweet adorable romance
  • threads of Christian faith
  • a retelling-of-sorts involving Robin Hood (!!!)
  • mystery and intrigue
  • all sorts of different character arcs
  • PLOT TWISTS AND REVEALS GALORE
  • swashbuckling action
  • heartfelt parts
  • humor/banter/character relationships that are so fun to read
  • even a dash of nautical adventure!

It just has EVERYTHING, I tell you.

(I also feel like this series would make a stunningly gorgeous awesome movie or TV show. XD Somebody get on that.)

I loved the time-travel stuff—it was BRILLIANT and made me happy. 🙂 Just… everything time related was so cool. In the first two, it’s basically a “portal” method to get Sarah into Serimone, and doesn’t do much beyond that, which was fine. BUT IN THIS ONE IT WAS SO INVOLVED. So much timey-wimey going on. And I loved that. 😀

There were so many revelations and plot twists, which I so enjoyed! I guessed a few of them, but if anything that made me love it even MORE, simply because I was so excited to see them unfold the way I wanted them to. 😀 It blew my mind SO. MANY. TIMES. and made me so excited and I just loooooved that.

The romance element was so sweet. Really enjoyed it! It wasn’t the main focus of the plot, so there was a lot of other stuff going on, but it weaved in really well. Will and Sarah are ADORBZ and PERFECT together and I don’t know if I ever shipped anyone so hard. XD …Okay, I was really shipping a certain other spoilery side-couple there too. 😉 SO MUCH SPOILERS BUT SO WONDERFUL. ❤

And the retelling/Robin Hood stuff!!! It made me so happy and it was so unique and awesome, loose but still noticeable, and I just… ksldkjfalsdkjf I CANNOT BE COHERENT UPON THIS SUBJECT. I will try though. 😉 Okay, so I ADORED how the retelling stuff came out in this book. Between that and the characters and the time stuff, those three totally made Defying Shadows AMAZING for me!!! ❤ *hugs book* It was completely brilliant how the Robin Hood things were slipped in, kind of subtly sometimes, recognizable in their way and yet with such NEW twists. AWK IT WAS AMAZING. *flailing around* It’s killing me not to expound upon the subject because I loved SO many particular aspects of it, but I don’t want to give anything away. Needless to say, it’s AWESOME and everyone must read it just for the Robin Hood ish elements. Because Robin Hood things are awesome and that is all that needs to be said upon the subject. *nods* (BUT TWISTS THOUGH.)

Defying Shadows was definitely a feelsy book—the emotions run deep, y’all! It made me laugh and smile and get excited and get angry (in a good way) and feel torn and left me teary-eyed a couple times, which isn’t all that common for this here reader… It made my feels a bit of a mess (who am I kidding—a LARGE MESS AWK) and I normally get annoyed at books for doing that but this one was just right and I didn’t actually mind. ^_^ (For those who don’t know me: this is a MAJOR deal. Props to the author for pulling it off.)

I enjoyed the first two books (Rising Shadows and Chasing Shadows), but this one I really LOVED. I was daunted by its size, but while I was reading it, it didn’t seem long at all—it was just the right size and needed that length because of ALL the things that happen. I would also say the writing is AMAZING in this book. It’s improved a lot since the first two. (They were by no means bad! But with this one, the writing has grown by leaps and bounds!) It’s exciting to watch an author grow from book to book, and I’d say Ashley Townsend has definitely come into her own. This book was so well written. Huge thumbs-up on all of that!

Do I have any complaints? Honestly, hardly any. I had a couple minor nitpicks along the way about characters doing things where I was like “WHYYYY, GUYS??” or coming to odd-seeming conclusions, but otherwise the book held together and was amazing on the whole. 🙂 I am very much on the fence with mixed feelings over the epilogue, though… There’s a part of me that likes it because it was a brilliant epilogue, but there’s another part which would have rather had it end on the simply INCREDIBLE high note of the actual ending of the final chapter! ❤ The epilogue was bittersweet (to me at least) which is not my sort of cup of tea? But I’m probably weird and most people will probably love it, so. 😛

Okay, character time. 😉 I loved being back with these characters in Serimone—it was like coming home. ❤

  • Will is of course AWESOME and my favoritest of all. <333 His story-arc was the best. I so enjoyed reading about him in this book! I think he came really far and he’s just… I HAVEN’T WORDS. He’s just such a great guy, heroic and a little dark/sad sometimes, but still learning things, and he’ll do anything for those he loves, and just… WILL. Will Will Will. That is all. ❤
  • Sarah really grew on me in this one! She actually kind of annoyed me at times in the first two? But this time I liked her! I actually felt a lot of the things she was feeling, which is different for me. XD She’s a good heroine. *thumbs up*
  • Damien is… ACK MY FEELS FOR DAMIEN. In Chasing Shadows, he was funny and charming and all, but I spent so much time while I was reading that one, worrying that Sarah would fall for him instead of Will, so that Damien was very much the unwanted-corner-of-the-love-triangle/villain, for me. I didn’t totally dislike him, because his charm DID get to me and sometimes I felt bad for him, but I didn’t see what Sarah saw in him, because Will was so much more awesome. 😉 But in Defying Shadows, Damien had a lot of focus and character stuff involved, AND THE AUTHOR MADE ME LOVE HIM TOO. I’m super impressed. I went from hating this guy to feeling bad for him to really liking him, and his whole plot in this story just… salskdjldkj. I have many feelings that I can’t sort out. I will say nothing more because oh-so-many-spoilers, but wow. (And the yew tree! UGH MY FEELS. D:) But his story-arc was really well done and I liked how it fit in with the rest of the story, and I’m okay. Really. (FEELS THOUGH.)
  • And then there’s a character whose very NAME is a spoiler, so she shall remain nameless, but her story-arc was AMAZING and I loved it to pieces, which really surprised me. O_O This coming from a character I loathed for awhile but came to really like and just… I’m speechless. The talent from this author just blows me away. Not to mention how many times my mind was blown about revelations concerning this character. Speaking of mind-blowing…
  • Robert and Richard were both awesome, and my favorites. (I keep saying that, I know. WELL THEY’RE ALL MY FAVORITES.) I absolutely LOVED their roles in the story!! *bouncing up and down* You will have to read it, but suffice it to say they are awesome and the best and that is all. 😀
  • And Karen! She’s great. And I LOVED her friendship with Sarah, not to mention Karen and Seth together—just so much yes. Also Will’s friendship with Seth and Robert and Richard—I loved seeing those relationships! So much awesome bonding in this book. ^_^
  • We got new characters too, like Merek, who was cool. He’s one of those instantly  likeable characters, and all wise and everything too. He wasn’t in it for very long but I really liked him. He made me think of a Friar Tuck type character. 😀
  • Obviously I abhor the villains who shall also remain nameless and are all horrible which means they’re doing their job. XD They were just UGH. Really nefarious and well-written.

And just… SO MUCH STUFF GOING ON. I’m so amazed at how many character plot threads managed to fit in this story! So many characters had so much going on and it managed to weave together and just wow. Call me impressed.

ANYWAY. This review has gone on quite long enough (though I didn’t even flail and squeal over all the spoilery parts I loved! AWK! <3) so I shall wrap up now. In my defense, the book is long, so there’s a lot to talk about. 😉

Overall, Defying Shadows is an extremely enjoyable time-travel Christian YA romance with a dash of Robin Hood retelling, marvelous writing, lovable characters with deep story-arcs, many feels, and… overall just a lot of fun. It did a splendid job of tying up the threads of the whole series and just… it made me really happy. ^_^

I highly recommend trying Defying Shadows out! (Though you might want to read the first two books, Rising Shadows and Chasing Shadows, first so that you understand things… But hold out till the end, because Defying Shadows is the absolute BEST! ❤ )

Disclaimer and thanks: I was a beta-reader for this book before its publication, so I received a free copy of it for that, and the opinions in this review are entirely my own. Many thanks to the author, the lovely Ashley Townsend, for the chance to go on this journey through Serimone with Will and Sarah and the gang! I had a blast and I think a part of my heart will remain with them. ^_^

About the Book

defyingshadows

One choice can define your future.

At first, Sarah’s return to twelfth century Serimone is as wonderful as she could have hoped—reconnecting with Will and celebrating the union of her two friends—but things quickly fall to pieces when she uncovers something that could unsettle the new regime. Before she can share this information, Sarah is forcibly whisked away by the one man she thought she’d never see again: Damien Lisandro, the friend who betrayed her and the traitor who was supposed to spend his life behind bars. Even more unsettling is the revelation that the mystery they had solved is far from over as a dead man comes back to life with the intent of corrupting the future.

In Will’s desperate attempts to find Sarah, he uncovers the mystery that she left behind, putting into question the kingdom’s past and the motives of its current king. But the madman whose mission it is to change history will stop at nothing until he succeeds, and a team of ragtag time travelers are the only ones left who can stop him.

As this exciting chapter of her life nears its end, Sarah must finally choose between Serimone and her world–between the easy choice and the right one.

Defying Shadows released July, 2016.

Find it online:

Amazon | Goodreads


Check out the first two books in the series & my reviews for them:

Rising Shadows (#1)

risingshadowscovernew

My Review | Goodreads | Amazon

Chasing Shadows (#2)

chasingshadows

My Review | Goodreads | Amazon

About Ashley Townsend

ashleytownsendAshley is a young twenty-something who has been spinning tales since she discovered that her wild imagination and love of storytelling could make a career. Reading and writing are her way of experiencing grand adventures from home, and she hopes that others will join in her fantastical escapades! She is a native to bookstores, coffee shops, the beach, and San Diego, CA. She hopes that God will use her wild imagination and love of storytelling to further entertain and encourage readers in their walk with God.  She currently lives in Southern California with her parents and three sisters.

Follow her quirkiness at Ashley-Townsend.com.

So, what think ye, readers? Robin Hood + Time Travel = pretty awesome, huh? 😀 Do you enjoy retellings, and what’s the best time travel book you’ve read?

Chasing Shadows

ChasingShadowsCoverChasing Shadows

by Ashley Townsend

4 stars

Young Adult (older teens) / Romance / Medieval / Time Travel / Christian

I received a complimentary PDF of this book from the author in return for my honest review. (Thank you!) I wasn’t required to be positive, and these opinions are entirely my own.


CHASING SHADOWS kept me guessing, there were lots of surprises, and it was overall a good and exciting adventure/romance! It was kind of too long for me, but that’s just my personal preference. I felt a bit like the first half dragged somewhat, with the plot seeming to get lost behind a lot of emotions and the love triangle, and a lot of stuff seemed to sort of come out of nowhere. But the final third picked up considerably and turned awesome and very exciting and I absolutely loved it!

I loved the romance — it was great and went back and forth between being breathtakingly sweet, to me wanting to bang the heads of both parties against the nearest hard thing and go “seriously guys, don’t be idiots!” But that of course is half the fun of romance tales — we like a little exasperating on the side with our heart-sighing romance. 😉 (I personally didn’t like the love triangle part of it though — nothing against this book in particular, I’m just not a big fan of love triangles in general. But I know many people would enjoy it so that’s fine and it was fairly well done.)

I had a hard time connecting with Sarah, the main character, since most of the time she drove me batty by being stupid. But I think that’s likely just me, and I have a feeling most readers would like her better. And I still wanted her to win, of course! She did grow on me, eventually.

Can we just take a moment to talk about Will now? Will was awesome and fabulous and I loved him a ton and he is one of my favorite characters now. He’s basically a big broken strong huggable bundle of epic, the perfect mix of a dark-guy and a hero and an all-around great guy who is just awesome and can be really sweet at times too, though you wouldn’t know it with his shell. His struggles and confused moments only made him more endearing. His caring and bravery and amazingness… just yes. He’s a mean shot with a bow, too. 😉 Will is basically the main reason I really liked this book. It’s well worth reading just for him!

The Spaniard was brilliantly done and I won’t give anything away but it was fascinating how he was written. I have very complicated thoughts/emotions about the whole thing that I’m still working on sorting out.

The other characters were all very well drawn and realistic-feeling, from Edith to Karen and the Professor and the Joneses (yay, Seth!) to characters like Robert. Particularly Robert. Yes. That is all I will say. (Also Richard. I really liked Richard! Even though he was sort of random. I somehow thought he’d be more important and now I really want to read more about him! I’m weird like that. 😛 )

The medieval setting was really neat. It was that sort of “gritty”, “realistic” sort of medieval that is more realistic than my taste would prefer, but I most people seem to like their medieval settings to be that way, so… *shrug* The whole book felt very REAL though. In fact, at times, it felt so real that it felt a bit more like real life than like a novel — like this was really happening to the main character. Very real emotions and problems and little day-to-day details instead of everything being streamlined and so dramatic and novel-like, if you know what I mean. Which was very different, somehow, and made me think about it, so even if I wasn’t used to that sort of feeling, it was actually kind of cool.

The level of detail was awesome! I loved how detailed everything was. I could see and feel everything and felt perfectly immersed. I loved the lovely settings, like the castle with its ornate feeling at times, and the cold but beautiful snowy forest… just yes! I loved being immersed, and it was amazing to feel so much a part of the world. I definitely felt like I was there.

It had its moments of fun and hilarity and I found myself laughing aloud a few times, and quoting some particularly wonderful lines that were funny, brilliant, or well-written. Points for that!

I wish the slight hints of Robin Hood stuff had been more explored (maybe more is in Book 1 and 3? I can hope! 🙂 ) but most of what there was, was cool! Even small hints are a lot of fun!

A few other little thoughts:

  • I really disliked the whole Jade plot though. I can’t really say much about it because of spoilers but… just no.
  • I definitely feel like this is for older readers, higher teens and up maybe, just for some general content.
  • There were occasional touches of Christianity, for those wondering if it was there.
  • I haven’t read much time travel, but this one was fairly neat! Interesting to read, anyway.

This is a sequel, and I haven’t read the first book (RISING SHADOWS) yet, so maybe some things are more explained in that. Mostly though there were enough hints about the events of the first that I didn’t feel lost, so you don’t have to read it in order to “get” this one. I’m certainly now curious about it though and want to read the prequel — and the third one (DEFYING SHADOWS, when it comes out — which I see rumors of coming this November?) to find out what happens! But at the same time, though I do want more, CHASING SHADOWS still wrapped up fairly well. It left me feeling happy at the end.

Overall: It wasn’t a five-star favorite for me, but it earned its four stars and I absolutely loved the last third of the book! Mostly, the problems I had with it were my personal preference, and I feel like many others would enjoy it more.

If you like time-travel, awesome characters, medieval tales, realistic-feeling settings with a bit of grittiness, a love triangle and sweet romance, with a touch of Robin Hood and intrigue and adventure in castle rooms and snowy forests . . . then this is the book for you.

Back Cover Copy

From Goodreads:

Would you choose to entwine your fate with a hero of the past, even if it meant altering the future?

The murder of an ancient king spurs Sarah Matthews to travel back in time, putting her life in jeopardy as she races against the clock to solve a thousand-year-old mystery and pick up the pieces of her star-crossed romance. Her return to Serimone reveals that the kingdom is in upheaval and that the elusive Cadius has sinister plans for the throne. Unable to right the empire alone, Sarah reunites with Will, the love she left behind and the man beneath the Shadow’s hood. As they work together amidst lavish balls and explore the secret depths of the castle, they discover that the conspiracy runs deeper than they ever imagined. And when a counterfeit Shadow claims the life of someone close to her after a personal threat from Cadius himself, Sarah discovers that the price of questioning the new regime is a life.

Guilt-ridden and alone, she discovers comfort in her newfound friendship with Damien, a charming Spaniard who joins Sarah in her personal crusade for justice. But as she draws closer to his dark past and to the faceless killer in their midst, she realizes that the severed threads of time and the mystery surrounding Serimone Castle are unraveling rapidly, weaving new tapestries of devastation.

In this thrilling and deceptive sequel to “Rising Shadows,” Sarah is forced into harm’s way countless times as she races to solve the puzzle before it is too late and Serimone becomes nothing more than a faded memory of the past . . . And before Sarah becomes a permanent fixture in history.

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

About the Author

Ashley Townsend is a young twenty-something who has been spinning tales since she discovered that her wild imagination and love of storytelling could make a career. Reading and writing are her way of experiencing grand adventures from home, and she hopes that others will join in her fantastical escapades! She is a native to bookstores, coffee shops, the beach, and San Diego, CA. She also has an unexplainable aversion to clowns and describes outlines as a “proverbial noose.” Her first book “Rising Shadows” is available on ebook formats, and the follow-up novel “Chasing Shadows” is available for purchase on ebook and paperback via Ink Smith Publishing.

Follow her quirkiness on:

Website | Goodreads | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest

The Huntress of Thornbeck Forest

HuntressOfThornbeckForestThe Huntress of Thornbeck Forest

by Melanie Dickerson

5 stars

Adult / Christian / Romance / Medieval

Retelling of Robin Hood and Swan Lake

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher–thanks, Thomas Nelson!–for reviewing purposes, and wasn’t required to be positive or anything. These are my personal opinions.


THE HUNTRESS OF THORNBECK FOREST is quite an enjoyable read, one I accomplished in most of an afternoon. The writing seems at times almost deceptively simple, but perfect for the book, painting a rich tale of a young woman and a young man as they seek love, purpose, and God’s will amid mysterious plots against the gorgeous backdrop of medieval Germany.

I loved the main characters, Odette and Jorgen, and their well-written struggles. Odette had a little bit of growing on me to do, but I soon found myself quite fond of her. Jorgen was positively fabulous. His strength, humility, kindness, loyalty, all-around awesomeness… Plus he’s something of a writer/poet! That was adorable, despite how little it came into the story. He’s reason enough to read this book. 😉

The story itself was great. How Jorgen and Odette were pitted against each other had me quite worried, I can tell you! It was wonderful to watch their story unfold, and I loved how it switched often back-and-forth between both of their viewpoints. The romance is quite well written, sweet, heartfelt, amusing, and at times adorable. The rest of the plot I found to be quite well twined together, with much more going on than at first meets the eye, and a few surprising plot-twists. I was rather on the edge of my seat about how some of it would turn out!

It was a well-paced, quick read, and I enjoyed almost all of it, but the best parts were probably the dancing scenes–so gorgeous–and the final scene with the margrave near the end, which I positively LOVED! That whole scene completely made the book for me (although it was already awesome) and was just perfect. Allow me to just fangirl here for a moment…!

The setting is a well-drawn medieval one, detailed but entirely natural-feeling. I felt quite immersed! The village, the forest, the castle… all the gorgeous “costumes” if you will… and the many side-characters who added so much depth without getting confusing. I really felt as if I was in the community of the Thornbeck village and had known it always, as the heroine had.

As a double retelling, THE HUNTRESS OF THORNBECK FOREST felt at once delightfully retold, and yet original at the same time. The whole weaved together as a new story twined from parts of old ones reborn. The forest, archery, hunting, and helping the poor gave it a very Robin Hood feel, and there were several great nods to the old versions. I loved that both Odette and Jorgen had fairly Robin-Hood-like roles, which only made it more awesome. (Throughout, much of it put me in mind of BBC’s Robin Hood TV show–the good parts of it!) The Swan Lake areas were mostly in the second half of the book, and while I don’t know that fairytale super well, I think I noticed the key things and found them extremely well done, especially considering the lack of enchantment. The similarities to both old tales were fairly subtle but noticeable. I just loved picking out the retelling aspects and how uniquely they were handled!

Drawbacks? There were hardly any, to be honest. And the ones I found might not apply to most prospective readers… Odette grated on my nerves a few times and occasionally seemed selfish to me, but on the whole I loved her as the heroine. It’s set in medieval times, which as a whole I enjoy, but there is a tendency toward more realistic, gritty details, which I could do without, myself. That may just be me, though! It definitely made it feel more “real”, I suppose, but I prefer more fantasized medieval settings… I normally read YA, but this book is classified as Adult, and there are reasons for that; for one thing, a subplot I could have done without involving a house of prostitution; tastefully written, not much stated, but implied. As a reader of YA, this book is a tiny bit outside my normal reading zone; just thought I would mention that and say I recommend it for older teens/adults.

Overall, though, there’s not much I found to complain about in this book! Aside from my personal preference toward less realistic/gritty, and not reading much adult fiction, this book was otherwise basically flawless in my opinion. So if you don’t mind those, then it should be perfect. 🙂

THE HUNTRESS OF THORNBECK FOREST is a marvelous tale of adventure, mystery, re-tellings, love, and God’s amazing hand in life.

HuntressOfThornbeckForest

The Huntress of Thornbeck Forest – by Melanie Dickerson

Back Cover Copy

A beautiful maiden who poaches to feed the poor.

A handsome forester on a mission to catch her.

Danger and love are about to unite in Thornbeck Forest.

The margrave owns the finest hunting grounds for miles around–and Odette Menkels spends her nights poaching his deer to feed the hungry orphans of Thornbeck. By day, Odette is a simple maiden who teaches children to read, but by night this young beauty has become the secret lifeline to the poorest of the poor.

For Jorgen Hartman, the margrave’s forester, tracking down a poacher is a duty he is all too willing to perform. Jorgen inherited his post from the man who raised him . . . a man who was murdered at the hands of a poacher.

When Jorgen and  Odette meet at the Midsummer festival and share a connection during a dance, neither has any idea that they are already adversaries.

The one man she wants is bound by duty to capture her; the one woman he loves is his cunning target . . . What becomes of a forester who protects a notorious poacher? What becomes of a poacher when she is finally discovered?

Published May 12, 2015.

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

The Huntress of Thornbeck Forest is the first in a new series of fairy tales for adults by Melanie Dickerson. I can’t wait to see what else is in store! She has also written several delightful books for young adults, also fairy tale retellings–what can I say; she has a talent in that direction–some of which I’ve read and greatly enjoyed! I’ve also reviewed The Princess Spy and The Fairest Beauty.

Find out more about Melanie Dickerson and her books:

Author Website | BlogGoodreads | Facebook | Twitter