Darcy Jones doesn’t remember anything before the day she was abandoned as a child outside a Chicago firehouse. She has never really belonged anywhere—but she couldn’t have guessed that she comes from an alternate world where the Great Chicago Fire didn’t happen and deadly creatures called Shades terrorize the human population.
Memories begin to haunt Darcy when a new boy arrives at her high school, and he makes her feel both desire and desired in a way she hadn’t thought possible. But Conn’s interest in her is confusing. It doesn’t line up with the way he first looked at her.
As if she were his enemy.
When Conn betrays Darcy, she realizes that she can’t rely on anything—not herself, not the laws of nature, and certainly not him. Darcy decides to infiltrate the Shadow Society and uncover the Shades’ latest terrorist plot. What she finds out will change her world forever . . .
In this smart, compulsively readable novel, master storyteller Marie Rutkoski has crafted an utterly original world, characters you won’t soon forget, and a tale full of intrigue and suspense.
Darcy Jones is different. An orphan, her countenance and behavior freak out adults and children alike, and Darcy is bounced from foster home to foster home until finally landing with a decent human. She has friends at her suburban high school, and they protect her from the stares of others. Except for Conn McCrea, who shows up one day in Darcy’s English class, glaring like Edward Cullen. He and Darcy are soon set up as partners on a project, and they get close. Unfortunately, Conn turns out to be an interdementional cop, who arrests Darcy pretty violently and takes her to Alt Chicago (though they call our world “the Alter”) to be processed and possibly charged. Darcy, meanwhile, has no idea what’s going on, as her memory pre age five is completely gone. It’s repressed, we find out, but I won’t ruin it for you. She is accused of being a Shade, beings considered terrorists, living like second-class citizens in Alt Chicago. And they kind of are terrorists, though they have their reasons (like mass genocide of their people during the Great Fire). Darcy doesn’t decide to infiltrate Society. She’s basically forced to by Conn and the Interdemensional Bureau of Investigation in order to stay out of solitary confinement. The IBI is a nice take on our own law enforcement, and how sometimes we can take things too far. So, Darcy decides to make a scene in public, outing herself as a Shade in order to gain entrance to the Society’s Sanctuary. It works, and she meets Orion, son of a Society council member, Meridian (they all have names like that). Darcy isn’t exactly welcomed into Society by the other Shades, but she’s allowed to stay in the Sanctuary.
I liked this one a lot, partly because it’s set in Chicago, and Rutkoski is pretty obviously from around here. She gets everything right, and the departures she took in Alt Chicago were fascinating and horrifying, like the idea of brownstones on the corner of Michigan Ave and Van Buren St (that’s the heart of downtown, or the Loop). The idea of no EL was jarring too. I loved it. It was pretty perfect, scenery-wise. I also liked Darcy herself. She’s been abandoned so many times, betrayed, hurt, that she doesn’t trust her own feelings, especially when it comes to Conn. She has to decide if she wants to be a Shade or a human, and it’s hard decision for an adult, let alone a confused seventeen-year-old girl. Darcy is in emotional pain for a lot of the novel, but she doesn’t do a whole lot of rash or stupid things. She just tries to figure things out. And she does, eventually, but that doesn’t mean things don’t get messy. She is pursued by Orion pretty aggressively, and Darcy has some pretty awesome things to say to Orion about it:
“No,” I said. “Help is freely given. You did something else. My body isn’t a bargaining chip. It’s not yours just because you want it, or because you think I owe you something.”
There is a mystery and a twist, and I had some idea what the mystery was, but I wasn’t prepared for the lengths the Shades were willing to go to destroy the humans. Despite what it sounds like, not all Shades want to destroy humans, and Rutkoski did a good job showing that by making it something Darcy is confronted about. At least two high up Shade officials do not support the terrorist activities of their fellows, and Darcy and Conn can eventually use that to their advantage. And speaking of Darcy and Conn, their love story is sweet and hard and heartbreaking and cute. I liked them together, and I think they worked through their issues in a realistic way. The romance was certainly not at the forefront of the novel either.
So go out and get this one! I loved it, and it’s perfect for anyone who likes alternate history with a supernatural slant.