Cast Long Shadows, by C.L. Hellisen
Marjeta Petrell.Replacement bride, shadow of a dead and perfect wife, step-mother to a duke’s treasured daughter.
A girl out of her depth, alone and afraid.
Magic runs deep in her veins, stitched in blood ties, embroidered with kindness and pain.In an unfamiliar court, Marjeta must discover who are her friends and who are enemies; who she can trust before she is accused of witchcraft and executed.
My Review (4 out of 5 )
Cast Long Shadows is a really interesting proposal from the hands of C.L. Hellisen, a slow-burn novel retelling the myth of the evil stepmother with rich world-building and a compelling story that makes you want another chapter before stopping reading. Despite being originally conceived as a retelling of Snowhite, it is clear how it evolved a lot since the original idea.
In our story, we are going to be following Marjeta, the second daughter of Count Petrell, a really complex character, during a great part of her life. This novel could be perfectly defined as a study of a character who is dealing with several traumatic experiences, and who is forced to grow up surrounded by hostile people. From her eyes, we are going to experiment with these difficult circumstances.
Characters in this novel are really deep, each one of those unique and well-developed, especially those that appear once Marjeta moves to a hostile place, having to substitute her deceased sister (a death she thinks is her fault) as the bride of a powerful Count. It is difficult sometimes to interpret their real intentions, and what are their real goals. The clash between different beliefs and religions is also a central theme, the old idols that Marjeta believes in against Furis.
The pace is quite irregular in this novel, being especially slow in the first quarter, and accelerating hard towards the end, when the book is difficult to put down, as it is really intense. The elements of retelling are recognizable but different enough to show how it is a totally different story where once you understand the roles of the characters, your expectations will be subverted.
This novel is an excellent slow-burn character-based story, where we will see how a confused and young girl has to deal with pain and grief while trying to survive surrounded by hostile people, who just want to keep control over her. Hellisen make an excellent job transmitting the feelings of these characters and making us empathize with them; I really enjoyed my time reading Cast Long Shadows.
Cat Hellisen writes weird, lush speculative fiction for adults and children. They are the author of several novels, including When the Sea is Rising Red and Beastkeeper, and their short fiction and poetry have appeared in various magazines and anthologies, including Tor.com, Apex Magazine, Shimmer and The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction.
Their favourite writers are Ursula K Le Guin, Margaret Atwood, Tanith Lee, and Clive Barker, though they love discovering new writers of the fantastical.