Ender's Shadow by Orson Scott Card. Review by Violet Kane

Book Cover

In Print
In this first volume of his Shadow series, Card revisits the Ender's Game storyline and endeavors to recapture the audience of that original novel for which he is best known.

Ender's Shadow overlaps roughly in time-frame with the events of Ender's Game, though it starts with viewpoint character, Bean, during his early childhood living on the cutthroat streets of Rotterdam. When Bean's startling intelligence and beyond-prodigious aptitude comes to the attention of Sister Carlotta, who is working for local children's charities in effort to find children suited for officer training, he is tested for and admitted to battle school—the very same battle school, of course, where Ender is training. The rest of the novel follows Bean's experience at battle school, as it parallels and as it intersects with Ender's experience. In alternate chapters, Card tells the story of Sister Carlotta's hunt for the truth of Bean's origins and her search for an explanation to his seemingly unnatural intelligence.

Book Cover

On Audio
There has always been something of a divide between Ender's Game and the three books that follow it; perhaps the age of the characters is the most striking difference, that is, the second book, Speaker for the Dead picks up when Ender is an adult. While I have always preferred Speaker and the books that follow it, Ender has a much larger following, especially folks in the grade school crowd who discover it as they reach roughly the age of the characters. Ender's Shadow is most certainly a return to this audience, and Ender's Game fans whose imaginations weren't captured by the immediately following novels will find this novel recapturing the magic of the original. I, however, have always been more of a Speaker fan, and though I find everything Card writes to be basically enjoyable—certainly worlds moreso than most other fiction I read—I found this novel a little repetitious. The prodigious child who seems weak and small but ends up proving his worth above everyone else is a common enough SFF stock character, but did Card really need to do it twice? If audiences eat it up, I suppose it suits his bottom line—while I'm certainly not saying that Card's characters come off as at all stock, in fact he's always great with character development, no matter what sort of character he's developing, but I simply prefer reading about adults and thus prefer when Card writes about characters over the age of 15.

As usual, the audiobook of Ender's Shadow belongs to an excellent production series orchestrated by Stefan Rudnicki. These are some of the best audiobooks out there. You can rely on Card's books to be brought excellently and faithfully to audio form.

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Violet "Violanthe" Kane is the Webmaster and Founder of ARWZ.com. She is an editor of ARWZ Literary Zine and is currently pursuing a Master's degree in Medieval studies.