Then, things were looking up for Tessa. Her mum was finally getting her life back on track. Tessa had started seeing Nick. She was making new friends. She’d even begun to paint again.
Now, Tessa and Nick are trapped in the car after a corner taken too fast. Injured, stranded in the wilderness, at the mercy of the elements, the question becomes one of survival.
But Tessa isn’t sure she wants to be found. Not after what she saw. Not after what she remembered.
A Shadow’s Breath is the first book I’ve read by Nicole Hayes, and I honestly don’t know why I’ve waited this long to pick up the world she wraps up inside gorgeous covers like neat little packages for us to lose ourselves in for a little while. And A Shadow’s Breath was exactly that. It wasn’t a book that made me ponder my existence for days or teach me some deep lesson — it was an enjoyable read that enabled me to escape from reality for a little while and immerse myself in the world of Nick and Tessa and get to know these two sweet people while also being jolted to and from the present in the way that made me desperate to know what was going to happen. Sometimes, the best books are the ones just simply capture our attention and make us want to devour it in one sitting. And that’s exactly how A Shadow’s Breath made me feel.
The thing I loved most about A Shadow’s Breath was the way it was told in a non-linear fashion, where there would be alternating chapters between the past and the present. I think this was the perfect creative choice for this novel because it was one that allowed us to get to know our characters in the chapters from the past but then question whether we really knew them in the present, when we were shown where they were now and what was going on. The things Tessa alluded to in the chapters from the present didn’t quite match up to the chapters from the past at first, and having this air of mystery surrounding what really happened was what made this an unputdownable read. I couldn’t help but race through the chapters, desperate to find out what was going to happen but also wanting to savour the beauty of the writing. Ultimately, it tore my heart into pieces in the very best of ways.
Family is such an important aspect of this novel, and I was so pleased to find that it was something that was explored in such depth in A Shadow’s Breath. Tessa lost her dad a while ago, and her mum resorted to drinking to mask her pain, as well as spending time with ‘the arsehole’, an alcoholic, wretched man who Tessa hates for good reason. It was heartbreaking to see Tessa struggle against wanting her mum to be there for her and support her, as well as seeing her realise that she had to be the one to take care of herself, which is something no teenager should ever feel as though they have to do. The desperation she felt for wanting her mother back radiated out from the pages and made my heart ache, almost compelling me to read on to see if her dire situation improves but also being hesitant to find out what happens next. This book was a battle to get through, but not because it was slow or dull — just the opposite. A Shadow’s Breath radiates raw grittiness and heartache, as well as moments of humour and love, and I’m already planning a reread.
I don’t even know how to begin to describe the beauty and poignancy of Nicole Haye’s writing, because it seems as though she has the ability to group together these 26 letters of the alphabet into words that are almost lyrical and unprecedented in their dazzling qualities. There are paragraphs that seemed to be weaved together so intricately and with such detail that makes my heart sing just reading it. But the beauty of her writing doesn’t stop there — it extends to the characters and fills their veins with starlight and vibrancy that allows them to feel incredibly real and alive. Each person I got to know was stunningly unique and realistic in every possible way, meaning it wasn’t hard to love these characters like you love the people close to you. That meant losing some of them, and then saying goodbye to the rest of them at the end of the narrative, was exceptionally hard. If you haven’t picked up A Shadow’s Breath yet, I encourage you to savour these magical moments with the characters. You won’t be able to help but fall in love with them.
Overall, A Shadow’s Breath is a compelling and beautifully-written novel about finding your place in the world when everything seems to be crumbling around you. The undertones of sadness and despair are coupled with hope and love in such a way that will warm your heart and fill you with the knowledge that you have so many people that care about you, even when it might not seem like it. A Shadow’s Breath truly left me breathless.
Have you read A Shadow’s Breath yet? Have you read any of Nicole Hayes’s other books? What’s your most anticipated #LoveOzYA release of 2017? Let’s talk all about our Aussie favourites!
Thanks to Penguin Australia for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!