I’m not usually the biggest fan of sci-fi, usually because (with the little sci-fi I have actually read) I’ve found the plot drags a bit due to over-kill of exposition and the like. This was not the case for Shade’s Children and for that reason I really enjoyed it. However, I did feel like there could have been more exposition in the beginning – I know, you can never win – but in saying that, I did reach a point about half-way through the novel where I was really getting the hang of the world and everything that happened to create this post-apocalyptic world (a ramification of the Change, in which everyone over the age of 14 simply vanished, and the possession of the world by a number of creatures (morbidly created by bodies of children in The Meat Factory) and the Overlords.
Am I giving too much away? I don’t know. Whatever the case, that’s just a little something about the background of the story. You learn all of it, and a lot more, while reading through many action scenes and various transcripts that filter throughout the novel (which are all great, by the way, though sometimes skim-worthy, as the logs don’t really give you much important information as such).
But I digress.
One thing I really enjoyed about Shade’s Children was that it was very fast-paced. Action, action, ACTION! Of course, there were scenes in between these action sequences that allowed for a breather, but the majority of the novel really kept you moving along with the characters and their dangerous tasks under the guise of Shade. It’s all very exciting and suspenseful, really. Just the kind of drama and challenges to keep a reader invested.
Speaking of Shade, he/it (man-machine, multi-personality thing) is pretty interesting. You do wonder throughout the novel whose side he/it’s really on. The Children’s or the Overlord’s? Hmm….
But Shade isn’t really central to the novel and I didn’t really get very invested in his character. No, most of my attention went to our four main heroes: Gold-Eye, Drum, Ninde and Ella. I can’t decide which of the four was my favourite character. They’re all pretty strong and interesting, even if none of them really develop enough. In that sense, I think Shade’s Children (looking, too, at the whole premise itself) definitely could have worked as a series rather than a stand alone novel. But, hey, you get what you get and what we get of the characters is pretty brilliant. Gold-Eye, having escaped from The Dorms, is rescued from a gang of Myrmidons by the others early in the novel. They take him back to the Submarine, where Shade and the Children dwell when they aren’t out doing whatever tasks Shade assigns them, all of which are aimed for the eventual destruction of the Grand Protector.
Gold-Eye and Ninde are around the same age, and the youngest characters. Gold-Eye has gold eyes (obviously), can’t speak English very well and his Change Talent is to see the soon-to-be-now. Ninde loves films, and she’s stubborn and confident. Her talent, which only works if she chews on her knuckles, is to read minds. I have a big soft spot for Drum. He’s the strong (his Talent is super strength) and silent type, but there’s a lot more to him than that. And lastly, there is Ella, the leader of the group. Her talent is probably the coolest, but least used. She can create things, like grenades, using her hands. Neat party trick. Anyhow, I really enjoyed each of these characters alone and together they are even better. Companionship is definitely a core theme to the novel and their friendship, alongside the brief romance and sex scenes, really lightened the novel up – as for most of the novel the characters are thrown into pretty dark, heartbreaking and dangerous situations.
But that’s enough of me dribbling on. If I go any further, I’ll definitely spoil something of the story for you, rather than just giving you some information about the general scope of the novel. I will say, though, that this is definitely a novel worth reading. It’s unconventional and entertaining, and I guarantee that you will spend the whole time rooting for the Children until the very end.
PS. Garth Nix is a wonderful writer and I’m definitely keen on reading some of his other books in the near future!