In brief: The sequel to Behind the Sun in a series of four, this books deals with three convicts and their lives in 1830s Sydney, Australia.
The good: Lovely to see Friday, Harrie and Sarah back again.
The not-so-good: Not as eventful as the first book.
Why I chose it: Birthday present.
Publisher: Harper Collins
Setting: New South Wales, Australia
My rating: 7.5 out of 10
Girl of Shadows is the second book in a series of four following a group of girls convicted in London and transported to Sydney, Australia. (The third book, The Silk Thief, will be released late 2014). Attracted to this book because I loved Behind the Sun, I eagerly began reading to catch up with Friday, Harrie and Sarah’s escapades. After their revenge on a man who hurt their friend, the threesome was being blackmailed by their archenemy Bella Jackson. Where would this book take them? Would they ever be free of Bella’s demands?
As you might expect, being only halfway through the series means that not all of my questions were answered in this book. All the action takes place in Sydney (comparing the map in the front of the book with the Sydney of today is very interesting!) which is very interesting historically. However, there are not too many new characters introduced (several characters from the transportation boat make a second appearance), demonstrating just how small Sydney was at the time. I felt this book moved much more slowly than Behind the Sun, without the drama of conviction and transportation. As the group are now three and separated over Sydney, there wasn’t as much interaction between the girls.
I did find what each of the girls were doing interesting. Friday has turned back to brothel work with a penchant for getting new tattoos on the side. Harrie is still working in the same house as a maid/seamstress, but her master introduces her to a tattoo artist in the hope that her drawing new designs will make both of them a bob or two. I found this somewhat odd, as Harrie has always been the most straitlaced girl of the group and I didn’t think she’d react to the tattooing positively. She takes to the idea very well and it appears that there’s scope for her to become involved in inking the tattoo in the future. While this is going on, Harrie is becoming increasingly consumed with guilt over the attack in the first book and starts conversing with her dead friend Rachel. When it turns out Rachel died of an infection rather than at the mistreatment of others, Harrie only becomes worse. She acts even further out of character that has her friends even more worried. Meanwhile, Sarah is trying to haunt her mistress, which has unforeseen consequences that complicates things even further.
There’s more romance in this book than the first one, which I thought was a natural progression as the girls grew up. Readers will be surprised to see who gets married first – it’s certainly not the girl I expected!
While I enjoyed this book, I felt it moved a little too slowly. A lot happened in the first book and so it was with perhaps false expectations that I thought this book would be full of twists, turns, action and betrayals. It does set up things nicely for the third book, with many questions added and a cliff-hanger ending which will make the girls’ lives even more difficult. I will still keep reading because the historical research is exceptionally well done and it’s rare to find that level of detail combined with good characterisation. Plus, I really can’t leave the girls where they are now…over the course of the series I’ve felt like they’ve become friends and I need to make sure that everything will turn out well for them!