BOOK TITLE: Shadow of the Hegemon (Ender’s Shadow #2)
AUTHOR: Orson Scott Card
As a book lover I must say that even if my heart craved for a long time for science fiction it was only last year that I actually started reading the genre more seriously and that happened when a friend of mine borrowed me Ender’s Game. The book touched me deeply, even if it is considered a children’s book. Continuing on this path I started reading Ender’s Shadow series and my liking of Bean became admiration and I can honestly say that the character is very dear to me so I couldn’t wait to see what his destiny is. I also must underline that I have read this book in Romanian and that, obviously, you might find some spoilers ahead!
The book follows the life of the children from the Battle School after their victory against the “buggers” and their return home, thus setting the plot on Earth. Ender is not among them, he is exiled together with his sister Valentine. In the beginning the book focuses mainly on Petra and tries to highlight how different and awkward her life on Earth seems after her previous experiences and how difficult it is to adapt. While trying to do so, Petra together with the other members of Ender’s unit, excepting Bean, are kidnapped by Achilles de Flandres who at the time works for Russia in order to obtain world domination. Julian Delphiki aka Bean, together with his family, survive a series of killing attempts coming from Achilles. After that the Delphikis go into hiding. While all these events are unfolding Bean reconnects with Sister Carlotta and also starts working together with Ender’s brother, Peter, all of them seemingly having the same objective, the release of the Battle School kids from Achilles hands. Meanwhile, Achilles gambles with Russia and then retreats to India in order to follow his plan, but all through this journey he keeps Petra with him. From now on a spider-web of intrigue and strategy will unfold, leading to unexpected events, while Bean struggles to save Petra from Achilles. (I will stop with the spoilers here and let you discover the rest of the book of yourself. I felt the need of stating the above in order to present you a background on what is really going on in the book and on what you are going to read).
“Death is not a tragedy to the one who dies; to have wasted the life before that death, that is the tragedy.”
My journey through this book has been an amazing one, really. After finishing the first volume of the Ender’s Shadow series I had high expectations but I could not have guessed what this book will really be about. Even from the beginning there was a slight difference between this one and the first, mostly because of the different plot location, this time Earth; the feeling of suspense follows you on every page and what is really great is that you end up finding more about Bean but also other characters such as Petra, Suriyawong, Virlomi and even Peter (and of course the villain Achilles).
The different perspectives from this book made me see that no character is entirely good or bad and put Peter Wiggin in a bit of a different light than Ender’s Game. It also explored the depth of Bean’s relationship with Sister Carlotta and if in the first book I felt that he had little empathy and the loving gestures he did towards her were mostly mechanical, in this book the change was obvious and their bond a really interesting one.
“It is in the turmoil of chaos that we discover what, if anything, we are.”
After reading both Ender’s Game and Ender’s Shadow Bean became my favourite character of the series. In this book my love for him grew even more and I was impressed how someone so young could be extremely mature and have the capacity to survive through so much and always sacrifice himself and afterwards pretending it was the natural and right thing to do. Bean steps in to save others or help them and takes no credit for it. In my eyes he is the personification of selflessness and I think this second book of the series proves this even more.
His arch-enemy, Achilles, is also brilliantly created but I think he is everything that Bean isn’t. He tries to mirror Bean by becoming a leader and a strategist and thus proving that he is a smart and gifted child, but he is selfish and enjoys inflicting pain on others, especially on those who have seen him weak (pretty much the definition of a psychopath, if you ask me).
“He would always speak the language of the heart with an awkward foreign accent.”
I believe this book is mainly a psychological one and manages to make the reader understand the personality of some characters and what causes them to take some decisions and reject others, also continuously illustrating the brilliant plans of children who already saved the planet Earth once before. It is an impressive masterpiece and it carries Bean’s adventures forward, into the unknown, into unexpected twists and situations, into dark times in which he always finds a light. I am not sure if it is my love for this book or for Bean that makes me say so, but there was not a single thing in this book that I did not like. I thought everything was well-timed and placed and I loved every moment of it, so no dislikes this time.
“What a laugh, though. To think that one human being could ever really know another. You could get used to each other, get so habituated that you could speak their words right along with them, but you never knew why other people said what they said or did what they did, because they never even knew themselves. Nobody understands anybody.”
The second book of the series is definitely a must read for sci-fi lovers and not only, because more than being a SF labeled book it is one about life and character and a truly amazing story which I think everyone should read. I must say it is one of my favourite books and series so far and I intend on finishing “the Bean journey” and “the Ender” one too and I encourage all of you to do so.
Overall rating: 5 stars
Goodreads link: Shadow of the Hegemon
P.S. I have, again, started on this road with a review of the second volume of the series instead of the first one, but it was a too enchanting experience not to do so. I will soon return with a review for the first volume too, so be patient and keep on reading!