Title: Stalking Shadows by Cyla Panin
Genre: Young Adult, Gothic, Fantasy
Release Date: September 14th 2021
A gothic YA fantasy debut about a young woman striving to break her sister’s curse and stop the killing in her small French town
Seventeen-year-old Marie mixes perfumes to sell on market day in her small eighteenth-century French town. She wants to make enough to save a dowry for her sister, Ama, in hopes of Ama marrying well and Marie living in the level of freedom afforded only to spinster aunts. But her perfumes are more than sweet scents in cheap, cut-glass bottles: A certain few are laced with death. Marie laces the perfume delicately—not with poison but with a hint of honeysuckle she’s trained her sister to respond to. Marie marks her victim, and Ama attacks. But she doesn’t attack as a girl. She kills as a beast.
Marking Ama’s victims controls the damage to keep suspicion at bay. But when a young boy turns up dead one morning, Marie is forced to acknowledge she might be losing control of Ama. And if she can’t control her, she’ll have to cure her. Marie knows the only place she’ll find the cure is in the mansion where Ama was cursed in the first place, home of Lord Sebastien LeClaire. But once she gets into the mansion, she discovers dark secrets hidden away—secrets of the curse, of Lord Sebastien . . . and of herself.
Rating: 4 Stars
There are a couple of things I want to mention before getting into my review. The first is that while Stalking Shadows has been marketed as a Beauty and the Beast retelling, it was more of a reimagining for me. I also felt that the Beauty and the Beast story has been overdone in recent years but Panin’s interpretation of the original tale was beautiful especially when it was coupled with a really creepy gothic atmosphere and I preferred this as it wasn’t a direct retelling like so many other novels, looking at you ACOTAR. It gave the original tale its well deserved creepy atmosphere and took a refreshing spin on Beauty and the Beast which I deeply appreciated as a reader. At heart this is definitely a come for the monster, stay for the atmosphere kind of book which really surprised me as it has been a while since a book gripped me this much from the atmosphere alone.
The story revolves around a pair of sisters, Marie and Ama who have been making a living by selling perfumes thanks to Marie’s knowledge in herbalism, which was a unique skill sets that I haven’t seen for quite a while. Marie often uses the skills to sneak into an old mansion which Marie thinks is responsible for cursing her sister to turn into a beast every month. I really liked how the “Beast” of the story wasn’t the love interest but Marie’s sister as that provided a whole new take for me as there is already a strong emotional bond between the sisters that is being tested by the curse and Marie is desperate to break it. Meanwhile, people are dying in their village and Marie isn’t sure if it is Ama or another beast that exists in the shadows and watching her trying to figure it out while protecting Ama was amazing. The real highlight for me wasn’t the characters or the story but the gorgeous atmosphere that is consistent throughout the novel and it felt like a perfect surrounding for this gothic tale.
While there is some romance within the novel it wasn’t front and centre or overdone which made the book more enjoyable for me as a reader because I hate insta-love romances. Marie as a protagonist was interesting to follow as she is strong and caring yet flawed especially with her strong desire to protect her sister. I liked that Panin focusing on the family dynamic between the sisters as this made the story feel more authentic and we genuinely cared about them throughout. Marie’s relationships with plants was also beautiful and added a more whimsical, fairytale-esque element to the story which was something that delighted my inner child. I also have to comment on Panin’s writing which is one of the shining elements of this novel as it completely drew me into this beautiful and cruel world ridden with beasts. All the relationships in this book including the one with Sebastian were delightful and Panin’s refusal to shy away from the darker themes really helped this.
However, this book isn’t perfect as the final reveal felt really odd, the twist was predictable and the explanation felt a little disappointing after all the development Panin put into the characters. I am not 100% sure what I was hoping for but the twist was heavily foreshadowed throughout the novel which put a downer on the whole experience for me, personally, as a reader. Overall, Stalking Shadows was a rich and creepy gothic tale filled with the bonds of sisters, blood and the reality that sometimes you have to be cruel to kind but the ending feel a little flat for me but it was definitely worth the read and added something new to the genre of Beauty and the Beast retellings. Highly recommended!
About the Author: Cyla Panin is an MG, YA and Adult Author who prefers to look at the world through a dusting of magic.
After spending most of her childhood wanting to escape into the wonderful worlds her favourite authors created, she’s now using her own words to craft magical places. When not writing, Cyla can be found playing dinosaurs with her two young boys, watching swashbuckling and/or period TV shows with her husband, and, of course, reading.
Her YA debut, STALKING SHADOWS will be out with Amulet, Abrams Fall 2021. She is represented by Chloe Seager of the Madeleine Milburn Literary, TV, and Film Agency.
Giveaway (US Only):
One winner will receive a finished copy of Stalking Shadows. The giveaway starts on September 13th and ends on September 20th. You can find the giveaway here.
I received this review copy from TBR & Beyond Tours.