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The Sapphire Shadow


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A thrilling, post-apocalyptic tale with a hero like Batman and Spiderman wrapped up in a sassy fashionista!

The Sapphire Shadow is a thrilling, apocalyptic tale that felt a little too close to reality at times! Set in a glamorous walled-in city (measures to combat the rising sea level), Nadia and her partner in crime/high school friend Tess enjoy going on heists. These small, rebellious acts of jewel and digital information thievery against the unstoppable force in charge, Auktoris Global Funds, bring joy to Nadia and bring money to Tess. Little does Nadia know how much of an impact she can have on the people of the city.

From the beginning of the book, I connected with Nadia, the Sapphire Shadow herself. Her petty crimes of stealing jewels, just to spite her mother and the powers of the city, felt like a normal reaction to feeling helpless, to being treated like a puppet. Anything to show the authorities (and the universe) that they can’t control you is an attitude a lot of us can understand.

Nadia’s motivation in the beginning does feel petty, but the longer she’s the badass Sapphire Shadow, the more her motivation expands to include caring for other people. Part of this is undoubtedly because her knowledge of the dangers of Auktoris grows, another terrifying part of this book that feels like it could actually happen in the near future. But the other part is that she does slowly overcome her past.

Tess, the tech genius behind the Sapphire Shadow and much more (spoilers!), remains shrouded in mystery for almost the entire book. It’s something that bothered me a lot because it almost felt like she was a placeholder (or a...shadow), but once you get to the end, it’s clear that this was an intentional choice by Wake. Tess deliberately hides who she is from everyone, and once she finally gets to share that with the people close to her, she lights up.

This is the best part about the cliffhanger. The book ends with us finally, finally seeing Tess, and it makes us want more, and oh my goodness I cannot wait for the next book. I am so there for more of Tess.

Wake’s strengths in The Sapphire Shadow include compelling action scenes that keep you reading long after you meant to put the book down and go to bed as well as innovative (and just really cool) technology. Believable world-building and an ever-building plot kept me hooked.

Although the “dictatorship” government could be viewed as a caricature and perhaps even a commentary on the state of the world right now, it was surreal reading about the walls around the city, the way the private police (the “Domes”) treated citizens both innocent and guilty, and how the higher ups just swept everything under the rug. I don’t know that Wake is trying to incite a rebellion in the real world today, but this story is at least a good reminder that when people are held in ignorance and want, they will band together and do something about it.

The other major strength worth mention in this book is the diversity of the cast. Not only is there racial diversity, there it’s also exciting that the three main characters are part of the LGBTQIA+ community. As a straight, cis person, I can’t truly comment on what this means, but I can say that it is exciting to see new books including diverse characters, ones who are exploring their identities throughout the course of the book. And that they aren’t defined solely by one facet of their identities.

The only weakness — or place for improvement, rather, as it didn’t take away from my experience as a reader — is in character development. From the beginning, we know that Nadia grew up rich and that she snubbed Tess when they were in high school. Nadia still has this snobby attitude, albeit slightly less so, by the chronological beginning of the book, but it’s difficult to see her growth within the scope of the book itself.

Tess, less so. That doesn’t mean either of these characters didn’t grow in this book, but we don’t get to see it. I would’ve loved to see more flashbacks as a way of comparing who they were in the past to who they are at different points throughout the story.

There is a really artfully done parallel flashback at the end of the novel revolving around Nadia’s father; the story would’ve benefitted greatly from more of that.

We see perhaps the most growth in Officer Jackson, who moves from seeing the system and the law as a force of good to by the end, after the horrors she’s witnessed, opening herself up to being wrong and to dedicating herself to right. In a literal sense, she still is the same person who fights for what she believes is right, so her growth focuses on becoming more open to questioning the status quo.

Who would enjoy this book?

People who love superhero stories. The Sapphire Shadow is a mixture of Batman (rich hero with no powers but lots of just really cool tech) and Spiderman all wrapped up in a sassy fashionista.

People who enjoy scifi, post-apocalyptic, social commentaries, and diverse stories.

My final warning is to be ready to want the second book, as The Sapphire Shadow ends on a wonderful cliffhanger!

Hope this review gave you a good idea of what to expect from the story. Happy reading!

Reviewed by

Books have the ability to transport us to other worlds and to teach us more about our own world. In my work, I've read many books on technique, philosophy, psychology, etc. that made me better at making music. Writing book reviews on these allows me to point others to the most helpful resources.


About the author

Science-fiction writer in the US. Author of THE SAPPHIRE SHADOW, working hard on the sequel. view profile

Published on May 16, 2020

140000 words

Contains mild explicit content ⚠️

Worked with a Reedsy professional 🏆

Genre: Science Fiction

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