The Shadows Between Us Shows The Power of a Highly-Motivated Protagonist

Alessandra is tired of being overlooked, but she has a plan to gain power:

1) Woo the Shadow King.
2) Marry him.
3) Kill him and take his kingdom for herself.

No one knows the extent of the freshly crowned Shadow King’s power. Some say he can command the shadows that swirl around him to do his bidding. Others say they speak to him, whispering the thoughts of his enemies. Regardless, Alessandra knows what she deserves, and she’s going to do everything within her power to get it.

But Alessandra’s not the only one trying to kill the king. As attempts on his life are made, she finds herself trying to keep him alive long enough for him to make her his queen—all while struggling not to lose her heart. After all, who better for a Shadow King than a cunning, villainous queen?

The protagonist of Tricia Levenseller’s new YA fantasy, The Shadows Between Us, is, to put it bluntly, a terrible person. Ruthless and ambitious, Alessandra is a murderer who sees absolutely no problem with manipulating and using others for her own ends. Her goal, as the story begins, is to marry the king and then murder him, so she can become the sole ruler in his place. And why? Because he’s evil? Because he’s a bad king? Nah. She just wants power and respect, and she doesn’t want to have to share it.

Alessandra’s political ideals are, to a modern reader at least, abhorrent. She’s all in on offering fake peace treaties to root out the ringleaders of rebellion and then publicly executing them. She is utterly ruthless and utterly unsympathetic to pretty much anyone. She can be good to her friends, but, overall, she’s a terrible, terrible person.

She’s also one of the most engaging and likeable protagonists of a novel I’ve read in a while.

I don’t mean likeable as in “I like her as a person.” But she’s likeable in the way that Cersei Lannister might be likeable, in that she’s compelling. It’s never boring being inside her head and following her story and her schemes.

And I think it’s 100% down to how motivated she is. Someone once said that a motivated character is more entertaining than a kind one, and this novel really shows that. Alessandra is TERRIBLE. And I ended up kind of loving her, because she makes the story happen. She knows exactly what she wants from the very beginning, and she pursues it. Her feelings about the king may change (of course, how could there not be an enemies to lovers plot thread in here?), but she is never uncertain about herself, never uncertain about her goal, and she goes after it without hesitation. It makes for a totally gripping and enjoyable novel.

Plus as her love interest king is kind of as terrible as she is, I don’t even have to feel sorry for him. They perfectly suit each other, so it’s incredibly enjoyable to see their journey.

So yes, if you’re looking for an addictive lockdown read, this is a great one to go for, especially if you like darker YA fantasy like The Cruel Prince.

What do you think?

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