A quick summary:
A devious, sexually liberated young noblewoman sets out to play a game of f*ck, marry, kill with an equally terrible young king. They enter a fake courtship arrangement, murder some people and then live evilly ever after.
The first thing you should know is that neither of the main characters are good people. You just have to lean into the idea of rooting for the bad guys. The Shadows Between Us opens with the heroine talking about how she murdered the first and only boy who broke her heart. Despite the rule that "good girls don't," she's taken many lovers since then and blackmails them into silence. Once her older sister is married off, she decides to reach for the highest of positions - Queen. But the King doesn't want a wife and will lose his ability to shift into shadows if he's near anyone he's touched skin to skin.
Alessandra is a skilled designer and seamstress and quickly becomes popular at court. She's a master manipulator, even if her schemes are nearly discovered at several points. The romance between the two of them builds rather slowly, with Alessandra being pursued by multiple other men and making lots of friends in the meanwhile. By the end, it's clear that she doesn't need Kallias but wants him. And while she might be a cartoon-level villain (Madalena from the delightful tv show Galavant), she gives up on the idea of killing him once she realizes they can be allies in conquest.
What makes them The Bad Guys? Well, they literally hunt down and arrest a Robin Hood character. Kallias has conquered six of the nine realms and has plans for the other three. Amid blackmail and dodging a murder conviction, Alessandra helps him come up with strategies to accomplish his goals. The reason we didn't list this book as "PG-12" (hi MPAA) is because of the violence. He kills people in front of her and then they just go back home and eat supper. Like I said.... lean in.
The world-building doesn't make a lot of sense. Characters use rapiers and have pistols. There don't appear to be sewing machines, but there's electricity and modern weaponry? There are still horses and carriages and taverns with wenches... but these other random modern things. It's inconsistent but I was able to ignore it. On the other hand, the court is comprised of people of varying skin tones and sexual orientations.
I tore through this book in two sittings. It's an angsty, dark fantasy romance that perhaps doesn't make sense in the Young Adult category but is nevertheless delicious.
Content Warnings: murder, violence, empire-building, poison, past: death of family via assassination, past: death of mother, blackmail
Suzanne received a digital copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.