This is the second of four ‘Shadow’ novels, Orson Scott Card’s spin off series to Ender’s Game (well it’s one of his spin offs, he’s got about 3 others…) and we continue to follow Bean, but also the other graduates of the Battle School as they return home for the first time in years. Not only that, but we learn how Peter became the Hegemon. And things are really exciting, we get political drama, kidnapping, war, espionage, secret online messages and more. So I enjoyed this book, and honestly I don’t mind that Card decided to create this spin off series because (so far) the books have been interesting, provided a whole new perspective, and have been enjoyable.
I can certainly see some similarities between this book and Speaker for the Dead which was the sequel of Ender’s Game. Both are completely different to the book they followed, after all, the Battle School story has ended and we are left to deal with the aftermath. But in this case, we deal with the not quite immediate, but the immediate much closer than Speaker for the Dead. And both also have alternating points of view, which I think is necessary for the story. This means we get to follow a number of characters, largely Bean and Petra with a few others.
Starting out you begin to think that this is just a story about the Battle School graduates readjusting to life on Earth with their families, who they haven’t seen since they were a little child. And the graduates have changed, and their celebrity status (especially for those close to Ender) also gets in the way of things. But things heat up quickly as Petra is kidnapped, and Bean and his family, well they are the targets of an assassination attempt. Just as Peter (Locke) warned, the graduates were huge targets for governments, with many taken into their own respective governments, but those close to Ender have all been kidnapped by one superpower.
But soon enough things get complicated as further attempts are made on Bean’s life, so he and Sister Carlotta go into hiding. It’s not long until they realise that there is one individual in particular who is behind everything: Achilles. Thought you had seen the last of him? Well, no. In retrospect it’s a bit obvious and quite a bit clichéd, the villain we all thought was beaten re-emerges as a greater threat and with a person vendetta.
Eventually things escalate further and a war/s begin to brew, all because of Achilles who is dastardly manipulative and clever. Bean of course works tirelessly to bring him to justice, so soon enough it is only Petra who remains captive. Petra’s story is interesting. She has so much guilt over the fact that she was the ‘first to crack’ on Eros. Her psychological strength during her kidnap is undeniable, but of course it eventually weans after so much wearing down. There’s a degree of Stockholm Syndrome, and I was a little concerned about where Card was going to take it, but in the end things worked out well enough.
Card mentions in his afterword that he initially was going to only have three books in this series, but this first one was dragged out because he made Petra remain Achilles’ captive instead of being set free. I think that was probably a good idea, and Card obviously likes to drag things out, but as I said I don’t mind too much.
One really interesting aspect to this novel is of Peter Wiggin. We get to meet Peter in the story, and then see his journey to becoming the Hegemon. I also love that we get to talk with Mrs Wiggin, because we haven’t really seen or heard much from them previously so it was fascinating, and surprising that they knew what Peter and Valentine were doing! The discussion between Mrs Wiggin and Bean was powerful and quite deep, so I’m glad we got to see this.
I just don’t know where this continues. I sort of hope Achilles is gone for good, cause I’m over his character. I guess we will see what Bean does, considering he now knows the truth about his life. And I’m sure we’ll see Peter’s continued rise to power. I am looking forward to it, but I just hope my enjoyment continues, and that I don’t begin to feel like we’re dragging it out too much.