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Book review: Ender's Shadow (Shadow Series, #1)

Ender's Shadow (Shadow Series, #1)Ender's Shadow by Orson Scott Card

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book tells the story of Ender's Game from Bean's perspective. It adds a lot of detail about the International Fleet (IF), Battle School, and political climate on Earth that were missing from Ender's Game, but it doesn't match the emotion and element of surprise in Ender's Game. I recommend it to fans of Ender's Game, but others won't likely enjoy it.

Ender's Game is one of my favorite books, and I really liked its sequel trilogy (Speaker for the Dead, Xenocide, and Children of the Mind). This book is the first in the Shadow Series, and follows Bean, not Ender, during the events of Ender's Game.

It starts with a starving, orphaned, nameless Bean on the streets of Rotterdam, in the Netherlands. He forges alliances and civilizes the underground orphans thanks to his superhuman intellect and cunning, but realizes that he lacks human emotions. Bean's internal tug of war between his intellect and his attempts to unearth his emotions play out during his stay with the nun Sister Carlotta, and his time at the Battle School.

In the Battle School, Bean hears about the legendary Ender Wiggin, and strives to earn his respect and, eventually, friendship. I was disappointed by how little time Ender got in this book; Card must figure that readers have already had their fill with his other books. In fact, most of this book assumes you're already very familiar with Ender's Game, and hardly devotes any time to explaining the Battle School or developing many of the characters.

The best developed characters are Bean, Graff, and Sister Carlotta. I liked the additional fleshing out of Graff's character, as he works with the staff of the Battle School to test Ender and Bean, and argues with Sister Carlotta about Bean's origin and destiny. We revisit Sister Carlotta every few chapters, as she searches for the secret of Bean's origin and intelligence.

Bean's supernatural intelligence plays a major role in the story. It allows him to derive the secrets of the Battle School and IF, leading him to discover the earth-shattering secret behind Ender's Game. This is my main complaint about the book; I loved Ender's Game for the twists and surprises, and in this book, Bean always seemed a step ahead, figuring things out and expecting the unexpected. The reader is passive, watching Bean unravel mysteries from a distance, whereas in Ender's Game, the reader lives each day alongside Ender, learning as he does.

Fans of Ender's Game will enjoy the additional perspective and cameos by many characters. Also, the book has a great ending that brings it full circle. I plan to read the rest of the Shadow Series to see where Bean goes from here.

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