Book Reviews

Burning Shadows: A Tale of Odriel’s Heirs

There are worse things than the undead… After months on the road, Kaia and Klaus, the Dragon and Shadow Heirs, have chased the remains of Idriel’s undead army into the wild western lands of Okarria; There, they encounter the barbaric evidence that the living can be just as bloodthirsty as the undead. Faced once again with humanity’s brutality, Kaia will have to discover what she’s willing to sacrifice to protect her people… and if it will be enough.

Novellas can be an interesting beast. By virtue of their length, they are unable to pack in as much story as a full novel, and they are far too long for a short story. All too often, authors try to cram too much into a novella, resulting in a book that feels rushed. Almost as often, they use the novella to pad out a short story’s worth of story, stretching it far too thin. Burning Shadows: A Tale of Odriel’s Heirs, by Hayley Reese Chow, manages to avoid these issues, presenting a tale that feels just right for its page count.

As its subtitle suggests, Burning Shadows sits within the Odriel’s Heirs series (you can read my review for the first book in the series, for which the series is named after, here, and be sure to check back next week for my reviews for the next two novels, and novella). It fills an interesting place, following on from Odriel’s Heirs, starring the same characters, who the reader follows on their next adventure. Rather than a prequel, or spin-off looking at another place in the world, it continues their story, but at just 60 pages in paperback (or an estimated 68 pages on Kindle), it doesn’t act as a full sequel. Rather, it’s a subsequent adventure about Dragon Heir, Kaia and Shadow Heir, Klaus. For anyone who enjoyed the original book (which, if you’ve read my review of that original book, should be just about anyone who picked it up), coming back to these characters is a wonderful experience.

Since I’m writing my reviews about the Odriel’s Heirs series as I go, prior to reading the next book, I can only assume that Burning Shadows isn’t essential reading for fans. It tells a standalone story about these characters, roughly about a year after the events of the first book. It teases what may come, but there is nothing to suggest that readers who don’t read the book will be lost during subsequent entries. Although it is set during the aftermath of Odriel’s Heirs, reading this first will explain how the first book ended—partly thanks to a wonderful refresher included at the beginning of the book—however, it serves as a great introduction to the world of Okarria for anyone wanting to test the waters with a short read before fully diving in.

Despite not feeling like an integral chapter to read, Chow has used the small amount of space to tell a rollicking adventure. The Lost—the undead risen—still plague Okarria. The story moves along at a swift pace, packing in plenty of twists and turns, as well as a number of action set pieces.

Returning protagonist, Kaia, and her fellow Heir, Klaus, are exactly as readers remember them. Kaia is now nineteen, two years older than she was through the majority of the original book. Odriel’s Heirs is very much Kaia’s coming of age tale, and while Burning Shadows lacks the character growth of that original book, seeing her at the top of her game, full of the confidence she earned during that journey, is a joy. Klaus is as enjoyable as ever, and works as a wonderful partner to the story’s hero. The interplay between the characters is wonderful throughout the story, and the use of Klaus’ childhood frenemy Madoc adds further entertainment to it.

The characters’ experience and comfort with one another has resulted in more of a freewheeling attitude with each other. A result of this is the dialogue popping more than it does in the original novel. While the characters have always sounded unique, they sound more distinct from one another this time. This is taken further by Madoc, with his differences in speech from the others, which is a source of constant delight.

Dialogue isn’t the only area where Chow’s words feel different to the original Odriel’s Heirs; the prose also feels different to its predecessor. The words in that book conveyed a true sense of beauty, full of metaphors, written in a poetic style. While there is no mistaking Burning Shadows’ prose is written by the same author, it is less laden with metaphorical imagery, and instead feels simpler. While I didn’t find myself as lost in the words this time, it was still beautifully inviting, and had some wonderful turns of phrase. The prose feels like more of a storybook, presenting a timeless feel that captures its own sense of beauty. Once again, this is a young adult book, and I think this prose will work better for the novella’s younger readers. When I read the next novel, Idriel’s Children, I’ll be curious to see if this is an evolution of the author’s style, or a change to accommodate the novella’s format. I did spot one typo in the book, one sole issue in otherwise immaculately presented prose.

I’d be remiss in discussing a fantasy story if I didn’t discuss its world and the fantastical elements it accommodates. Once again, Chow presents a vivid look at Okarria and those who inhabit it. The fantastical elements are once again wonderful. The world isn’t presented with as much complexity as in the original novel; however, this is something that is to be expected given Burning Shadows’ reduced format and smaller scale story.

A smaller book than the original Odriel’s Heirs in size and scope, Burning Shadows uses the format to its advantage. Reintroducing readers to the major players and a wonderful world, it fires on all cylinders. Readers already acquainted with Okarria will love what the book adds to the world, and new readers will love this introduction. Anyone who loves fantasy or young adult stories will be hooked.

Favourite Passage

A sonorous clanging woke Kaia from a string of nightmares filled with burning villages and the keening Lost. She bolted upright in the dark room, her heart thumping and her clothes damp with sweat. Sleep still fogging her senses, her blurry gaze roved the blackness. Where was she? Where was Klaus? And who was ringing a bell in the middle of the night?

The two paws and an insistent wet nose found their way into her lap. It’s okay, my girl, we’re okay.

Burning Shadows: A Tale of Odriel’s Heirs, Chapter Three: “A Parley”

Burning Shadows: A Tale of Odriel’s Heirs was provided by the author for the purpose of an honest review.

Burning Shadows is available in paperback and on Kindle, exclusive to Amazon).

You can follow Hayley Reese Chow online, via:

Note: I do not post scores on reviews on this website, but do post them on my Amazon and Goodreads reviews:

Interested in purchasing Burning Shadows?

Please find a link below; please note I do not collect any proceeds from the sale.

Burning Shadows: A Tale of Odriel’s Heirs

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