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Reviewed by Peggy Jo Wipf for Readers' Favorite
Gilded Shadows by Stephanie J. Cress is the first in her Elements of Discord series. The Old Dominion is a town of humans and Folks. The Folks have four different groups; Sunfolk, Stonefolk, Skyfolk, and Earthfolk. Each has its unique strengths given by the gods, but their weaknesses are “curses” that could be life-threatening. Mixing any of these people results in a child believed to be sterile, therefore called mules. Dela, a Mixed woman, has documented cases of Mixed women who have become pregnant. This makes her a target for those who wish to keep this information hidden. Gilwin was hired to assassinate Dela, but he finds he cannot because she is innocent of the crime they accuse her of committing. Sarret leads his father’s business and household the day after he comes of age. Dela, Gilwin, and Sarret have ties that slowly draw them together. The Mixed people are the answer to their futures; will they have the resolve to see it through?
Stephanie J. Cress throws a paradox in her writing that twists the plot into an unforeseen ending. Gilded Shadows features distinct races of people that are opposites in every sense, yet their weaknesses give them a balance in humanity. Through an intricate weaving of characters, dangerous assassins, and mysterious puppeteers pulling the strings of events, Cress constructs an engaging storyline. This complex fantasy spins a web of Mixed race characters that rise up for their freedom. A revolution is inevitable, and the leaders are well-developed characters that face hazardous perils around every corner. Overall, I cried at the end, leaving me eager for the next book. This novel mesmerized me and I can’t wait to see in which direction the author takes the next one.