Blog Tour Review: Stalking Shadows by Cyla Panin

I’m so thrilled to be on the TBR and Beyond Blog Tour for Cyla Panin’s debut novel Stalking Shadows! This is such an immersive YA read, and it has great Gothic elements! Let’s check it out!


About the Book:

Title: Stalking Shadows

Author: Cyla Panin

Publication Date: Sept. 14, 2021

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy

Publisher: Amulet Books

Synopsis: A gothic YA fantasy debut about a young woman striving to break her sister’s curse and stop the killing in her small French town

Seventeen-year-old Marie mixes perfumes to sell on market day in her small eighteenth-century French town. She wants to make enough to save a dowry for her sister, Ama, in hopes of Ama marrying well and Marie living in the level of freedom afforded only to spinster aunts. But her perfumes are more than sweet scents in cheap, cut-glass bottles: A certain few are laced with death. Marie laces the perfume delicately—not with poison but with a hint of honeysuckle she’s trained her sister to respond to. Marie marks her victim, and Ama attacks. But she doesn’t attack as a girl. She kills as a beast.

Marking Ama’s victims controls the damage to keep suspicion at bay. But when a young boy turns up dead one morning, Marie is forced to acknowledge she might be losing control of Ama. And if she can’t control her, she’ll have to cure her. Marie knows the only place she’ll find the cure is in the mansion where Ama was cursed in the first place, home of Lord Sebastien LeClaire. But once she gets into the mansion, she discovers dark secrets hidden away—secrets of the curse, of Lord Sebastien . . . and of herself. 

Book Links:


About the Author:

Cyla Panin is an MG, YA and Adult Author who prefers to look at the world through a dusting of magic.

After spending most of her childhood wanting to escape into the wonderful worlds her favourite authors created, she’s now using her own words to craft magical places. When not writing, Cyla can be found playing dinosaurs with her two young boys, watching swashbuckling and/or period TV shows with her husband, and, of course, reading.

Her YA debut, STALKING SHADOWS will be out with Amulet, Abrams Fall 2021. She is represented by Chloe Seager of the Madeleine Milburn Literary, TV, and Film Agency.

Author Links:


My Review:

Stalking Shadows follows Marie as she tries to find a cure for the curse that plagues her younger sister Ama and turns her into a beast every month. Often left on their own by their alcoholic father, Marie and Ama make their living selling perfumes to the local villagers. Marie uses her knowledge of herbs and medicines to work at the mansion where she believes her sister was cursed. There Marie hopes to find the cure for Ama. With ever-increasing threats lurking and her sister’s life at stake, Marie learns that things aren’t always what they seem, and she must look into her own haunted past to learn how to save her sister.

I’m loving the abundance of YA Gothic literature lately, and Stalking Shadows is no exception. The Gothic elements – the isolated village, the old and desolate mansion, the dark and brooding male love interest, the spooky woods that surround the village, the plot shrouded in mystery, and the fantasy/paranormal elements – add so much to the story. The tone also has a sense of foreboding, as does the atmosphere, and it makes for a gripping read. It immediately immerses you into this ominous and entrancing world filled with secrets, lies, betrayal, curses, and more.

Marie is an interesting and dynamically developed character. A flawed woman, Marie does some unconscionable things that are hard to swallow, and she isn’t always the most likeable of people. She lies and manipulates others for her own purposes, and she doesn’t always think things through. However, she is also fiercely loyal to her sister, which is what fuels her throughout the story. Marie is strong, smart, and determined, and shows an incredible amount of courage as she searches for some way to help her sister. She is also often selfless, putting her own needs and desires aside to help those she loves. She is such a well-layered protagonist, and I enjoyed her character arc.

Marie isn’t the only morally grey character in the novel. In fact, almost all of the characters show signs of being morally grey, which highlights the fact that no one is completely good or completely evil. Marie does bad things to help her sister. Sebastien acts out of a sense of duty, responsibility, or love. Ama is just trying to survive. Other characters also reinforce the idea that everybody has shades of grey when it comes to life, morality, and ethics, and the story as a whole makes you think about questions like:

  • What would you do to protect the ones you love?
  • How do you decide what is personally right and what is wrong?
  • What do you do when your decisions/morals conflict with society’s?
  • Is it ever ok to lie and manipulate?

Another strong message in the story is shown through the fickleness of the townspeople. It’s a great commentary on society and how willing people are to change their beliefs when it suits their needs. This could also be a message about how people are willing to change and how beliefs evolve as knowledge grows, which is probably the case for some of the townspeople. But, for the most part, it seems as if people in this small village care less about change and acceptance and more about themselves.

Now, I’m a big fan of romance, and there is a wonderful, slow-building and burning love story between Marie and Sebastien. Though they come from completely different worlds, they have a lot in common. They are both outsiders in different ways, and they both know the sting of suspicion and distrust. Both are parentless but have strong bonds with their siblings, both are burdened with responsibility and have people depending on them, and both have been left in the dark for most of their lives. I like how their connection slowly builds over the course of the story, and though their relationship is built on lies and secrets, I so rooted for them. They have great chemistry, and they seem to really care for each other.

Ultimately, this is a story about sisterhood, survival, and finding one’s place in an unforgiving and intolerant world. A fantastic debut novel by Cyla Panin, Stalking Shadows is a unique and fresh Beauty and the Beast reimagining with immersive and layered world-building, strong messages, compelling characters, and several unexpected twists and turns. It’s gory and mysterious and suspenseful, and I thoroughly enjoyed it! I’m so thankful to TBR and Beyond Tours and Cyla Panin for providing me a copy of the book in exchange for my honest review, and I can’t wait to read more by this talented author!


Rating:

Favorite Parts:

  • The Gothic elements.
  • The sisterly bond.
  • The unique spin on Beauty and the Beast.

Favorite Lines:

Remorse is ethereal for her. It comes and goes in light, wispy waves. It doesn’t settle over her like the shroud I’ve come to wear.

We were two women alone with only a drunkard father for protection. Suspicion fell to us like the yellowing leaves falling from the trees.

Time is a weapon turned against us.

When pieces of your heart are chipped away, you don’t get them back.

Recommendations:

Be sure to check the content warnings before reading the book. There are some topics – abuse, alcoholism, violence, death, etc.) that might be triggers for some readers.

15 thoughts on “Blog Tour Review: Stalking Shadows by Cyla Panin

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