Shielded by KayLynn Flanders is the story of the warrior princess of a kingdom at war who, be it magic or determination, must find within herself what it takes to save it.
Jennesara, the princess of Hálendi, doesn’t want to be married off to a prince she’s never met. Shocker, I know. Underestimated and hiding what powers she has from the world, Jenna lives in the shadow of her brother, a powerful magic wielder who will take control of the kingdom once her father dies. After an unfortunate series of events, the duty to save her kingdom, and the neighboring kingdom of Turia, from war is Jenna herself.
The beginning of the book is a bit slow. Basically just expositing, exposition, expositing a little more, still more expositing, and parts you can skip because somehow this became a survival book. The action picks up about a third of the way in and the actual plot gets going about halfway through. While Jenessara’s journey to Turia could’ve gotten boring, the first person perspective saved the day. The ability to be in the character’s head makes a story way more engaging, even if what’s happening in the story at that moment isn’t.
While the first-person perspective does a lot for the reader, this story might not have been able to stand on its own in the third person, especially because the main character doesn’t have an incredibly distinct personality and the reader can easily self insert, which isn’t always a bad thing, especially in these troubled times. Along that same vein, I think the novel would have worked better in the present tense to make some of the more banal scenes engaging.
Jenessara, while born with her powers, practices fighting constantly, which helps to round out the claims of her ability to beat anyone but her mentor, Hafa, and staves off Mary Sue accusations. Her relentlessness, be it to protect her family or her kingdom, is admirable in a subtle way, which is in part why her character is so likable. Jenna’s determination is a key character trait, but it’s great that we aren’t beaten over the head with it, and it suits her as a warrior while being clearly demonstrated by her feats. After her trek through the Wilds, this is an even more entrenched character trait that’s hard not to love.
There isn’t much question about Jenna’s morality. She’s just clearly good, like many of the other characters in the book, which is fine, but this only exacerbates the simplicity of the plot and characterizations. Personally, I found this a bit frustrating because we stan a morally gray queen, but I still found myself liking Jenna, so props to Flanders on that.
The relationship between Jenna and Ren is really well done, though the shortcut of Jenessara’s power gets a bit of credit for that. Their dynamic is at once caring and competitive, which is common for siblings close in age and makes their interactions all the more endearing. The same can be said for Jennesara’s relationship with her father. Though they have disagreements, and even when she feels utterly betrayed by him, their love for one another is clear. As for Jenna and her love interest, was it cliche and insta-love-y? Sure. Was it mindless cuteness that could easily be enjoyed? Most definitely.
As a high fantasy, new terms are somewhat expected, so I liked the use of “glaciers” in place of other more controversial terms. Maybe I’m just missing Goddess In The Machine, but more unfamiliar phrasing would have been interesting, though the cold weather swears seem realistic. The landscape of Jenessara’s world is fairly straightforward, with Halendi to the North, Turia to the South, and the Wilds and Fjalls between. Sure, there are other kingdoms in other areas, but they’re only vaguely referred to and it’s hard to place them in a geographic location.
The “plot twists” in the book are blatantly obvious to anyone who’s read any YA book ever. Halfway through the book, I experienced the most egregious one. I quite literally screamed with anger at how obvious it had been from the second the character in question had entered the plot. Unfortunately, for those who love their plot twists, Shielded gifts the reader with very few surprising moments. The most shocking is when, inexplicably, Jenessara is stumbling through a forest and slams into “something hard” that isn’t a set of rock hard abs, a side of dimples and a charming smile. Well, she runs into those fifty pages later. Minus the dimples, at least. And possibly the abs.
Flanders’ prose is straightforward and readable—great for readers who don’t enjoy flowery descriptions, but not so great for those that do. The dialogue is vivid, which moves the story along nicely and serves to make this cast of characters even more likable.
Overall, I was let down by the hype this book got before its release, I wouldn’t say it’s not well-written. It’s just nothing we haven’t seen before. While the premise and story are predictable to the point of blandness, Shielded is a simple, entertaining, and comforting read reminiscent of more senior books in the genre for lovers of YA Fantasy and newcomers alike.