Series: Ravenborn (bk. 1)
Subjects: boarding schools, artists, death, supernatural, mythology
Setting: At a boarding school called Islington Arts Academy in northern Michigan, based off Interlochen Arts Academy outside Traverse City
Age/Grade Level: Teen
Length: 294 pgs.
List Price: $17.99
Publisher: Simon & Schuster: Simon Pulse
Summary/ product description: “Islington Arts Academy is not an average high school. Nestled in the forests of Michigan, surrounded by trees and nature and virtually no evidence of civilization, it is an oasis for those looking to get away. Perfect for a student like Kaira Winters, who wants nothing more than to put her past behind her and focus on the present…and her looming graduation, just a few months away.
But the past has a way of returning when least expected.
Kaira knows that what happened before, at her old school, wasn’t normal. She knows that what happened to her ex-boyfriend wasn’t natural. But she refuses to believe that the recent death on campus, the one that left everyone on edge, has anything to do with her. She refuses to believe that she could be at fault again.
But just as the past always returns, the truth can never stay hidden for long.
Even if Kaira didn’t cause the first death at Islington, or the second, or the third, she has the ability to find out who did. She has the obligation to stop whatever is coming to campus. To end the darkness that is falling with the same snow that once blanketed the woods in beauty.
But to embrace this power—to relinquish herself to the ancient entity that has been lurking in the corners of her mind–is to let go of her humanity…and Kaira doesn’t know how far she can go before she loses herself completely.”
My Review: Shades of Darkness is a pretty interesting read, but super exciting. I think the best part of it is the setting. It set at an art boarding school called Islington Arts Academy in northern Michigan, based off Interlochen Arts Academy outside Traverse City, an art school that the author attended. I actually camped at a KOA campground not to far from it, and of course I’ve been to Traverse City a few times. While I was reading the book I though maybe it was supposed to be in the Upper Peninsula, near Houghton, off Lake Superior. The specific location is never specified in the book, just “in the wood of northern Michigan, beside a lake.” It’s almost always snowing in the book. It’s true they get lots of snow up there.
I think it would be cool to attend a boarding school that’s art focus. I myself an in the school of art at NIU, getting my degree in Visual Communications (Graphic Design). I’ve taking some studio classes. I love painting, be I only use watercolor, gouache and sometimes acrylic. Kaira, the book’s main character, is an oil painter. She’s taking other studio classes, like silver-smithing too. She’s working on her senior thesis, which consists of paintings of tarot cards. Kaira is kind of quirky and dresses kind of strange, has magenta highlights, talks weird. She’s of Native American descent, but she was adopted. Her best friend is a gay guy named Ethan. He’s very sweet and funny and also an artist. He’s dating a bass player named Oliver. Ethan is the character that I believe the author based off himself.
There’s this guy named Chris, who likes Kaira, but she refuses to date since something bad happened to the last guy she dated. Chris is also a painter and is a truly nice guy. Kaira keeps seeing crow flocking around campus. She sees them a an omen for bad things. A student dies, and she believes something supernatural is going on. There’s a touch of Norse mythology woven in to the story that doesn’t become important till the end.
The story is kind of slow and repetitive. The word “gay” is over-used and I feel like we don’t need to be reminded of a character’s sexual identity constantly. Also, Kaira keeps saying she’s going to get a complex from something, or talking about how she came to the school to escape and that she’s used the workload as a distraction. It just gets so repetitive. There is a lot of humor and interesting dialogue though.
I recommend this series to fans of the House of Night series, Hex Hall, Vampire Academy, The Dark Elite series and any other boarding school books with supernatural elements of mystery.
Cover Art Review: I love this cover! I love any cover with the watercolor look. I tried painting like this before, but could never get this style of water color/ink down. The type treatment of the title is lovely too.