Summary: At the tender age of twelve years old, young Eliza comes into the knowledge of her birthright. The daughter of the former Shang Sorceress, Eliza’s destiny is to take her mother’s place and protect the connection between the lands of Tian Xia and Di Shang through developing her magical powers and having a daughter of her own. But when she is discovered by the Mancers and expected to take her place, everyone is surprised by the fact that she appears to have zero magical ability at all. Despite lacking essential powers, a competing sorceress who has been locked away for a decade arranges to have Rom, Eliza’s father, kidnapped, hoping to lure Eliza to her prison in the Arctic. In a trial by fire situation, Eliza must figure out the talents she does possess, unlock the secrets of her past and go after her father.
Number of Pages: 279
Age Range: 13-14
Review: Imagine being twelve years old and suddenly having to save two worlds and your father with a power you don’t possess and a questionable friend who could easily be an enemy. This is the position Eliza finds herself in after the Mancers find her despite the lengths her father Rom has gone to in hiding her from them.
Her destiny is simple, do her duty, and die young in the process, after procreating to ensure the next generation of sorceress. It seems easy and straight-forward, but when it comes to Eliza’s mother’s generation of sorceresses, things seem to go awry. The Xia Sorceress becomes so drunk with power she must be confined to an Arctic prison and values living forever instead of passing on her power to any progeny, and Eliza’s mother, the Shang sorceress, refuses to marry the Mancer she is supposed to in favour of a human man instead. When her daughter arrives, she hides Eliza’s powers deep inside so the Mancers won’t be able to track her and she can have a regular life.
It appears that Eliza will be the last in her line, especially when she seems to have no magical abilities. But when the Xia Sorceress gets wind of her she kidnaps Eliza’s father and demands she bring a certain book with her when she comes to rescue him. What follows is a fantastical fantasy adventure with many challenges to overcome, puzzles to solve and lives to save. Though Eliza lacks magical skill, she along with her best friend Nell and the Shade named Charlie she comes to trust are up to the task.
Eliza and Nell are both great characters, but Nell was my favourite. She’s spirited, always enthusiastic and willing to follow Eliza to the ends of the earth. When she goes with Eliza and Charlie to Tian Xia but has to give up her memories of the adventure for them to get back to Di Shang, Nell truly shows her loyalty and willingness to sacrifice for her friend. Egan makes it clear Nell has an incredible thirst for adventure, and those memories would have kept her going for a long, long time. I admired her sacrifice because it really was one and Nell made her decision in a spilt second.
It’s a complete story and a good set up for The Last Days of Tian Di trilogy.
“She quite enjoyed these mornings in the Library, poring over huge musty books and learning how to decipher the mysterious script within them. She particularly liked being allowed to climb the ladders way up to fetch books, balancing carefully along the ropeways, following the leaping amber lights that spun and twirled acrobatically. She felt like she was climbing about in a forest of books, as if they grew naturally from the lofty marble shelves.” – Eliza from Shade & Sorceress by Catherine Egan, page 56
“‘You foolish girl,’ he said, his voice like a whip. ‘Why did you come? You were safe. Why did you come?’
‘The Mancers weren’t going to rescue you,’ she said furiously. ‘Nobody was. I had to come.’
‘But you were safe!’ he said again. The pain in his eyes was too awful for her to look at. ‘That’s all that mattered to me. I could spend my life here, she could torture me or kill me, but I knew you were safe.’
‘I’m going to get us out of here,’ she insisted, half-pleading.” – Conversation between Rom and Eliza from Shade & Sorceress by Catherine Egan, page 229
“‘Eliza…’ Rom began, then stopped. She seemed to have gone into a kind of a trance. He watched her closely, and a great confusion of pride and horror and grief tangled together within him. He wanted to tell her to leave everything to him, to stop whatever she was doing. He wanted to promise that he would save her. But no words came. Ever since his wife had come back from Tian Xia twelve years ago holding this tiny squalling bundle with his face, all that had mattered to him was protecting her, keeping her safe. What he saw now with such a mix of emotions was that she was no longer really a child, and that she was indeed her mother’s daughter.” – Rom from Shade & Sorceress by Catherine Egan, page 235