Overview (No Spoilers):
When listening to Shadows of Ivory on audio, I had the strange feeling that a good friend was reading to me right from the get go. Surprisingly, it took me ten minutes before I had the epiphany that Kate Reading must be the narrator, immediately having to stop listening to confirm my suspicions. Reading is one of my favorite narrators, having listened to her for all of The Wheel of Time and The Stormlight Archive series. Needless to say, her narration is delightful, bringing the story effortlessly alive.
Shadows of Ivory has a distinctly Indiana Jones vibe, which triggers nostalgia due to the love that the old movies held during childhood. That said, Greylock and O’Connor thankfully address one of the key aspects of this classic that has less than gracefully aged; the relocation of treasures from their home to a museum in another country.
Greylock and O’Connor craft a world in Shadows of Ivory that is detailed, steeped in history, and holds plenty of scheming, ambitious individuals. There are quite a number of characters to keep track of throughout this novel, however each personality feels deliberate and holds sufficient depth to enrich the story as whole. The main focus of Shadows of Ivory is the strong but flawed Eska de Caraval, an archeologist who partners with her uncle, Valentin, in their family business, the Firenzia Company. Eska dons many hats by also assisting her parents with their political careers, which affords its own privileges. She unexpectedly becomes more embroiled in politics than she might wish, upon being framed by an unforeseen power with murky motivations. This political mire threatens everything Eska has worked toward, while closing doors that had previously seemed limitless. As her time seems to run short, can Eska solve the many mysteries she is actively working on before her options run out?
Initially, Eska is established as the protagonist, with Manon Barca clearly cast as her rival. While these two remain at odds, we see the clear divide between good and evil start to erode as Manon garners sympathy and Eska’s demons come to light. It should be no surprise though that my favorite character is the awkward, bookish Albus Courtenay who is pulled out of his comfort zone and embarks on his own adventure that arguably surpasses anything he might have found in his books.
The magical system in Shadows of Ivory appears to be well defined, with stark divisions within magic users, called carriers, based on their capabilities. As the story progresses the rules, as the majority of the population understands them, turn out to not be as clear cut. These abnormalities call into question the rarity of such unique applications of magic, as well as the existence of other potential subsets yet revealed.
For the most part, Shadows of Ivory is an action-packed adventure that keeps the reader on the edge of their seat as each reveal begets more questions and amplifies the danger, before leading to a frantic escape. This cycle repeats over and over, though by the end of this novel the near misses often come about after tidy solutions. This pattern and reliance on convenience takes some of the wind out of the suspense as the resolution often borders on the predictable.
Overall, Shadows of Ivory is a highly enjoyable introduction that packs in quite the adventure filled with treasure hunting, hidden dangers, bitter rivals, and mystery.
Additional Insight (Spoilers Abound):
- Does Alexandre de Minos know the reason that Eska turned down his offer of marriage? What is his end game? Why is he loyal to the Archduke?
- Will Albus be able to escape Keleut? When will Keleut realize she doesn’t actually want the world to be left at the mercy of Aurelia and Aurelian?
- Aurelia and Aurelian were so well done! Talk about creepy twins. Are they really orchestrating all of this by themselves or is there a larger mastermind?
- Is fire fuel what Manon used in the beginning to fire a missile at Eska?
- Eska being so cruel and dismissive of Eden San-Germain was a good indicator of how much the drug use was impacting her. Eden was a fascinating character whom I enjoyed, especially during the water scenes. What is the extent of his powers? At what point will Eska finally realize what the harrow root powder is doing to her?
- What/who possessed Perrin? Why did it pick Perrin and not Eska?
- What are Perrin’s powers? Or Luca’s? How many other random powers are hiding out there?
- Who is the Barca spy in the de Caraval household? Is it Bastien?
- Poor Gabriel! What was the magic he touched that killed him?
- Why did Eska keep her attempted murder from her mother? Really she kept so many secrets throughout this book. She also made grand assumptions that I’m going to predict are wrong, such as all the murder attempts coming from the Iron Baron.
- What did Victor do to Perrin that made him dislike him so much?
- Who poisoned the Chancellor and set up Eska? Was it really the Archduke?
- I enjoyed the underwater retrieval sequence but I was so looking forward to finding out what else was in the vault. Also, I highly doubt it was nearly as visible as described in the story. Once they started kicking up sediment it would have been impossible to see for hours after.
- I loved the Indiana Jones feel of the searching for six (or seven) reliquaries, though after being hidden for so long it was a bit too convenient that so many of them were turning up in such a very short amount of time.
- How did Julian Barka make the changes to Victor’s tomb from his cell? Where did Isoula escape to?