Friday, November 19, 2010

Shadow Hills by Anastasia Hopcus

Shadow Hills, by Anastasia Hopcus
Release Date: July 13, 2010

Publisher: Egmont

Pages: 391

Received: Library book

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Author's Page

Amazon Page

Mourning her sister’s recent death, Phe is doubly plagued by strange dreams of her sister and a spooky boarding school. When an acceptance letter from the same school arrives for her deceased sister, Phe feels drawn to attend herself. Hoping to find answers to her strange dreams, Phe finds herself instead draw in into the paranormal mystery surrounding the sleepy town of Shadow Hills. As she gathers clues—a graveyard filled with people who all died in the same year, a hospital filled with far too young dementia patients, students with abnormal abilities, a secret council, a ghostly ancestor, and a murder—Phe finds herself in the middle of a centuries old conflict.

I enjoyed this book, though not as much as I was hoping I would. Phe is a likable character with a good attitude and an inquisitiveness that is both endearing and helpful in moving the story forward. I really could have done without the constant asides about her musical preferences, probably because I didn’t know or care to know any of the bands she mentions (I also wonder if this will hurt the book’s staying power in years to come). Phe’s love interest is a nice guy, but he struck me as a little too perfect. I didn’t really buy into his character or their rapid romance, he was kind of bland, and his unbelievable “goodness” rubbed me the wrong way.

Unlike so many books, the “good” secondary characters don’t feel like afterthoughts and instead have fully-formed personalities (I really liked Adriana). I wish they had more page-time and were more involved in solving the mysteries. Unfortunately, this character strength didn’t hold true for the “bad” characters. While most were given plausible explanations for their behavior, their actions and personalities were pretty “generic bad guy” and so the explanations rang a little hollow for me.

The plot was equally conflicted for me .On one hand, the plot ideas were great. We finally get a paranormal book that doesn’t have werewolves and vampires running around (though I do love them). Instead, Shadow Hills has a completely unique (and scientific!) paranormal occurrence. Hopcus also weaves in more traditional paranormal elements of ghosts and witchcraft. I found myself equally drawn to these two paranormal mysteries and I sped through this book primarily hoping to learn more about these aspects.

While I really liked the plot ideas, they weren’t fleshed out very well and I really didn’t like the pacing of the plot. Too many mysteries are introduced but not enough time is spent on unraveling these secrets. Instead, some of the answers and clues are left disappointingly sparse to the point where they only make surface level sense, whereas others are answered too rapidly and with unbelievable convenience. Events are also doled out with excruciating slowness, and then all of a sudden a bunch of things are dumped on the reader.

The main mystery is solved in this book, but there are tons of questions still left unanswered (presumably waiting for a sequel). I want to find out the answers to those questions, so I will read the next book when it comes out. I’m pretty sure Shadow Hills is the first book Hopcus has published, and while it is uneven, it does show a lot of promise that I hope will be realized in future books.

Explanation of rating system: Star Rating Key


  1. I like paranormal books, not involving vampires, werewolves etc. The premise sounds enticing. I might just have to give this one a try. If I do I'll place a link to this review along with mine, K?

  2. That would be awesome. Thanks! I'm curious to see what you think of it.

  3. I just finished this one! I enjoyed the premise as well and though I agree with you on the pacing, it didn't bother me so much. I think I've been reading a lot of really complicated plots lately where there are way more questions than answers that I've just sort of accepted that aspect for the first book in a series! Really fantastic review, I enjoyed reading your thoughts:)

  4. Thanks, and thanks for stopping by! I hear you about the first book complicated plots/tons of questions. I just have to make sure I can keep track of them all in my head for when all the sequels come out. I think I should start taking notes. :P

  5. Premise sounds interesting but I agree that it's really annoying when the plot isn't as fleshed out and complete as it should be. Hmm, I may or may not check this one out later.

  6. Maybe reading it back to back with the sequel would be better. That way there's (hopefully)less of a "Hey, aren't you going to explain X more?" feeling because you'll get the answers right away in the second book.

  7. Yes, I think I would prefer that.


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