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  • This book deserves a second read and then another.

    Book Review by Mahimaa Sangar of Shadows of Sylvaheim by Toula L. Gordillo Adolescence is a very confusing time, not to sound cliché. Heck, I couldn’t tell crush from catastrophe when I was a teen. And that wasn’t too long ago. But there’s no denying that it is perhaps the most magical time in our lives. Shadows of Sylvaheim by Toula L. Gordillo captures this very essence of adolescence and packs it in the story of three special characters; Jack, a sixteen-year-old boy, Emily, his younger sister, and Bruce, their estranged father. Settled in an unassuming town among the foothills west of Australia’s Great Dividing Range, this novel breathes life into those faraway places in our minds and the troubles we hold so close. Jack struggles with self-doubt and peer pressure. He’s not good enough in his eyes and the only people who validate him are misguided neighbourhood friends who dabble in weed and other drugs. Emily has strong habitual tendencies that limit the spontaneity in her life. She’s “fourteen in age, ten in mentality”. Bruce is battling his own demons – at times, one of them being Jack. He’s disconnected from his children, especially his son who he can’t help but erupt around. When Lucy, their mother and Bruce’s wife, falls into a coma, this fragile family breaks like glass. Hurting each other as they break away, the siblings are whisked by a storm into the Nordic realm of Sylvaheim and Bruce is left in a confusing haze of guilt. Oh, you thought drama was all you’re getting in this book? Make way for fantasy and Norse mythology, beautiful people! Chris Hemsworth might have to step aside as the Aussie representative of Nordic myth in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Just as Jack’s journey into Sylvaheim serves as a bridge to the sublime, I believe this book can serve as a bridge between teenagers and their personal truths. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by certain emotions or know someone who is, chances are Jack, Emily and Bruce are feeling that exact same thing. Whether it’s trying to stay true to yourself or being unable to voice what’s on the inside, you’ll find the words you’ve been looking for in this book. Presiding over all of this are the two new drug lords in town, Lord Batu Glass and his partner Morgana. Together, they’ve staked a claim on the impressionable youngsters of the world and are set to transform them into beasts enslaved to their drug. Yeah, Jack’s got a lot on his plate without the secret of his origins and a strained relationship with his father getting in the way. Oh, did I hint at a mysterious birth secret rooted in Nordic mythology? There’s that too! Overall, Shadows of Sylvaheim is a stormy adventure into the darkest depths of adolescence and all that it entails. From navigating the fault lines of a family to reinforcing one’s own identity, Toula L. Gordillo gives us the tools we didn’t know we needed until now. Once you’ve entered the thrilling world of her creation, you won’t want to go back. I cannot be more sincere when I say this book deserves a second read and then another.

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