Today’s review is for one of my top-favorite books of all time! I’m so excited to finally get to review this book, which was my most-anticipated release of 2022!
Yes, indeed, Jayden and Dana are back and I can’t wait to tell you all about it.
(Or, you know, you can skip ahead to the links section and just buy yourself a copy — or a copy of book one if you haven’t had the pleasure of reading that one yet. You need this series in your life!)
Title: Dana Illwind and War’s Shadow
Author: Arthur Daigle
Series: Dana Illwind, #2 (Book 1: Dana Illwind and Growing Shadows. Read my review here!)
Fantasy • YA and up • 2022 • 308 pages (paperback)
Read August 21, 2022 • 5 stars (I’d give it 6 stars if I could!) • Fave character: Jayden! • Source: Amazon (Note: I also beta-read this before publication, and read the chapters as they released on Booksie before that. So this is my 4th read and I still want to read it again!)
I ADORE THIS BOOK AND CAN’T RECOMMEND IT ENOUGH! GO READ IT! That’s the short version. 😉
You know those books, series, and characters that you love SO much that you can’t properly express it in words? Well, this book, series, and Jayden and Dana are that for me. I seriously just love these characters SO MUCH and will follow them anywhere, and this series is up there with a select few on my list of very-top-favorite books! (Tolkien’s, Howl’s Moving Castle, Paper Crowns, and these two books. That’s the list.)
Dana Illwind and War’s Shadow is just SO GOOD! I feel like it’s a bit like Diana Wynne Jones meets Lord of the Rings, because it’s hilarious AND epic, and there are only so many books that can pull that off. Plus it has a distinctive FEEL that I can’t really explain but makes it a favorite of mine. It’s such a unique, fun book. I adore the cleverness of the plot, writing, and dialogue (so quotable!), and how we’re getting deeper into this world and all its kingdoms and monsters and intrigue (with doses of humor and epic characters, of course!). Everything’s building into a crescendo and I’m very much looking forward to the final book one of these days!
Jayden and Dana have gone from smaller, more disconnected adventures fighting monsters and lower-level villains, to being pulled directly into the center of an intricate web of war and magic and nefarious plots. Seeing them hold their own against all of that, while each growing in their own ways, had me glued to the page in breath-holding delight.
Plus, they’re just the best characters! Jayden and Dana make the BEST pair, like Holmes and Watson or something. So classic and perfect!
Jayden is snarky, courtly, and dangerous at turns, and woe to any wrongdoers (human or otherwise) who draw his attention—especially if Dana doesn’t redirect his rage to keep the destruction to a minimum! XD Jayden is simply one of my top-favorite characters of all time, and I have the HARDEST time describing this unpigeonholeable character, but he’s superb and always has the BEST comebacks in witty dialogue, and having another whole book with him was a TREAT. He has a haunted past and a bit of an anger management problem when he sees injustice (don’t worry, Dana’s helping with that—when SHE isn’t as angered by the injustice as he is…), but he’s on the side of right and is a force to be reckoned with. There’s a wonderful quote in this book, by a very wise character: “I see a heart of gold wrapped in rusty chains. Break them off for yourself and those who need you.” Probably one of my favorite lines about Jayden! It’s perfect for the journey he’s going on. I just love him so much.
I mentioned Dana a few times in there because they’re so tied together in the story, and I love how they help each other see each other’s weaknesses and help overcome them, but also show each other their strengths and encourage that. It makes me happy! They’re an excellent pair of friends and Dana is just the sort of person one wants at one’s side. It was fascinating how things become sort of personal for her by the end (not to be spoilery…), and how it shows how far she’s come in these two books. She’s got to be one of my favorite female characters of all time. I love how she’s full of the BEST common sense and is much more down-to-earth, while Jayden and others around her are being dramatic. The interplay there is SO much fun. XD She’s sturdy and no-nonsense and is becoming quite the swordswoman, but I love that it’s simply her good-hearted way of doing the best she can and helping others.
It was intriguing to have “interlude” chapters seeing what the villains think of what Jayden and Dana are up to (even when they don’t always know it was Jayden’s fault. XD), plus there’s a new character who is verrry interesting and I’m looking forward to seeing more of him…
Some other random thoughts: The whole section set in the kingdom of Bascal was one of my favorites! It was such fun! The ball scene and a certain sword-update were fabulous. There’s the return of some fan-favorite characters from the first book (Lootmore, Suzy, Prince Onus!), and new, intriguing ones I’m very curious about (Cassandra, Malcolm, Palan…)! And not to get into spoilers but there mayyy have been a dragon involved at some point… I loved the Brotherhood of the Righteous and Father Firepower. I also found the shadow magic to be pretty neat—just a really cool magic system that Jayden is VERY good at. The fluffy fox!! Plus goblins being mischievous and also more organized than expected… The goblin-gate was hilarious. XD
I’d be here all day if I mentioned all my favorite things, but that’s a few of them, and particularly Jayden and Dana’s banter and dialogue, which is 100% pure GOLD! *grinning*
DANA ILLWIND AND WAR’S SHADOW is book 2 (book 1 is DANA ILLWIND AND GROWING SHADOWS) and I think I liked this one even MORE than the first one, if that’s possible. It was amazing to come back in this second book and be immersed once again in more Jayden and Dana goodness. ^_^ I’ve been following Jayden and Dana on their adventures for some time now and these stories never cease to make me happy!
I’ve read both books four times each (once you count reading them in serial format, then twice-through beta-reading, and then reading the final published version aloud—because I have such a fun time doing all the voices and sharing the stories with my siblings, which is the highest honor a book can get from me, that I have to give it a dramatic reading to my family) and I never get tired of these adventures. I anticipate re-reading both books soon, just like I read and re-read Howl’s Moving Castle. Some books are just so delightful to revisit, and this is definitely one of them!
In short, this book is funny, clever, and deep in unexpected ways, with a dash of spooky, and inhabited by two of my favorite characters ever. It’s just SO good and I adore it to Other Place and back! Seriously, just go read this.
If you love epic fantasy with well-built worlds, whimsical/humorous fantasy that’s a little tongue-in-cheek satire (think Discworld, Magic Kingdom for Sale, or some of Diana Wynne Jones’s books), and unique characters who will steal your heart, you absolutely MUST check out the Dana Illwind series! 10/10 recommend!
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