By L.M. Fry
Elysia Feldon lives an idyllic teenage existence. Her biggest concern is whether her best friend, Rhys, is in love with her childhood nemesis. That is, until an invading tyrant takes everything she holds dear. Her father and Rhys go off to war, her village is attacked by raiders, and her home is burned to the ground. Alone and afraid, she struggles to survive until she meets other refugees. Together, they create a hidden sanctuary in the mountains and make a stand against the invaders. Tales of their escapades spreads, and the legend of the Shadow is born
Elysian Field is the first book of the Shadow Rebellion Legends and I have to say this book was amazing. This is my new favourite series.
The book cover is stunning. It shows a beautiful red-headed girl with a sword. She is stood in a field with a forest behind her and the sun streaming on her head. It’s the kind of cover that you should judge a book by.
Elysian Fields is set at an indeterminate date sometime in the future.
“The city – once known as New York according to the sign on the ground – was flooded by the Eastern ocean. Every glorious mystery it once held was lost long ago during the cataclysm when the volcanoes erupted, the earth shattered, and the seas swallowed the lowlands. Only the skeletal remains on the once great towers loomed near the surface.”
Elysia is 15 years old and lives near the ruins of Washington D.C in a little village called Flint. She lives with her devoted parents and her two younger brothers, Gregory and John. Her life is idyllic:
Dad comes through the backdoor with a feather-covered John under one arm, and towed a crazy-haired Gregory behind him. Mom groans and rushes everyone out of the house like a sheepdog herding disheveled mules.
Her life is thrown into disarray when news of war is brought to their village. Elysia’s old fears come back along with memories of when he father went off to war when she was five years old.
The book begins with a timid Elysia picking berries for her mother.
“Fear makes the blood in my veins crystallise. Fear makes the memories rampage. Fear makes me a young child again. The barking grows closer from out of nowhere, a dark cloud blots out the sun – sinister omen for the oncoming battalion.
Berry bushes provide little protection from the approaching hounds and men on horseback who troop down the muddy road.”
Elysia soon realises her fears were for nothing and the men we simply Lord Harrington’s men.
“Without warning someone yanks my red braid and my head jerks back.
‘RHYS!’ I screech, cutting off his cheerful greeting. He laughs and dodges my barrage of kicks.
‘Whoa! Calm down. Someone’s having a bad day today,’ he teases.
I swing the basket at my best friend in a fit of frustration and the contents scatter across the forest floor. Dropping to my hands and knees I scoop up the fallen berries.
‘Rhys you ass.’
Elysia and Rhys have been friends since they were children as had their parents before them. Whenever they can’t sleep Rhys and Elysia sneak out and meet under the ancient oak that spans their yards. For Elysia life without Rhys is unimaginable, despite their frequent arguments she wouldn’t be without him.
Their argument was interrupted by calls for a town meeting something to do with news from New Washington. The mayor delivers the news but does a poor job and end up agitating the villagers.
‘To the people of Flint: a new enemy has invaded our shores. The great King Haakon has called upon his four nobles to gather their armies and defend our capital. However, there may come a time when I will call on you. Until that day, I will ask you to keep a sharp watch over our territory. May this conflict end quickly, and may you all be well. Lord Harrington.’ The meaning of the letter churns his rusty gears and pride leaks from his face.
Tensions increase. Men rumble, women sniffle, children cry.”
In the wake of this news the townspeople turn to Elysia’s dad, he remains stoic and manages to calm his fellow villagers. Rhys suggests her father teaches him how to use a sword and her father decides to teach Elysia and her brothers as well.
Her mom is not particularly happy with her dad’s plans to teach them swordplay. Her mom is a healer and wants her to carry on the tradition but Elysia feels she doesn’t have the knack.
With news of the trouble in the capital Elysia has increasing feelings of anxiety and she keeps having flashbacks to when her father went off to war.
“Old memories flood my system. I am five years old. Mom sits near the hearth. She doesn’t speak – she doesn’t sleep. She doesn’t care. Lost in worry, wondering where Dad is, she cries every night when she thinks I’m sleeping. The bad men, the men he called abnormals, came out of the west, and he left with the other soldiers to fight.
A year later, everyone celebrates. The soldiers have come home, but they aren’t the same. Dad is different. Bloody bandages conceal wounds on his head, and scars cover his broad back and chest. Sudden noises make him jump, and he doesn’t laugh anymore. It takes days to heal his body and months for his smile to return.”
Before long news from the capital goes from bad to worse and the men of the village get called to war, including her father and Rhys.
“The weight of the war suffocates the entire town. I wander through the streets watching people walking brusquely, their heads and shoulders hunched. The silence is unnerving. Usually there are children playing or people talking, but today Flint is devoid of joy.”
Elysia keeps herself busy helping her mother mix her remedies and then delivering. She also spends time practicing her swordplay.
Then one night Elysia wakes up with a start.
“Ash barking at the door and the smell of burning at the door and the smell of burning at the door and the smell of burning wood wake me. The glow of fire illuminates my room. I stumble out of my covers and as I rub the sleep from my eyes, I discover that the light is coming through my window. Taking hold of my curtain I’m about to look outside, but two large shadows stop me….
Frightened, I creep into my mum’s bedroom. She is also out of bed, crouching next to her window and looking toward town.
She hold her fingers to her lips and gestures for me to crouch down. I crawl over to her and see massive flames licking the sky above town.
‘I’ve got to get your brothers. We need to leave. Get ready. Do it quickly and quietly,’ she whispers.
‘But why? What’s going on out there?’
‘Don’t ask questions. Just do as I say. Now!’ The firelight flickers in her frightened eyes.”
Elysia has to flee into the night with no idea if her family, or anyone she knows is still alive. Things look even more bleak when she returns to the village the following morning.
“Small plumes of black smoke rise above the forest, and the acrid smell of smouldering wood gags me. My first glimpse of Flint comes into view, and all my hopes fade away. I watch from behind the tree line, listening for any sign of life. No soldiers. No villagers. No animals. No hope. I move between burnt homes and stores. I see the remains of charred bodies hanging out of doorframes or windows and cover my mouth to keep from hurling. In the center of town, a mass of carnivorous birds peek at a mound of rotting corpses.”
Elysia is struggling to survive when she meets Sof and Malia and a few other survivors. Elysia inadvertently becomes the leader of their little band of survivors and earns her reputation as the infamous ‘Shadow.’
Elysia is one of my new favourite heroines. She is like a cross between Katniss Everdeen and Arya Stark (two of my favourite characters.) She is resourceful and strong and cares deeply about her family. I cannot rave about this book enough.
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