Don’t miss out on The Shadow Game series by Amanda Foody. The Shadow Game gives off the same dark, addictive vibe as Six of Crows, sans heist. (Minor spoilers!)
Years after both Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom, I’d been searching for another book or series that gave me that same vibe I felt as I read Leigh Bardugo’s heist duology that was full of found family, street gangs, high stakes, and adrenaline rushes.
The Shadow Game series does exactly that while being completely different at the same time. Ace of Shades, which came out last April, was one of my favorite reads of the year, with its sequel, King of Fools, being one of my most anticipated books of 2019.
(This article has very minor spoilers for both The Shadow Game books)
I compare Six of Crows and The Shadow Game for multiple reasons though their plot lines are in no way similar, one of which is how diverse they both are. Last year I wrote about diversity in Six of Crows and Amanda Foody managed to bring some, if not quite all, of the same levels of diversity into The Shadow Game.
Not only are her characters racially diverse, but there are multiple characters on the LGBT+ spectrum which catches my attention more these days then books that don’t include different sexualities. Giving this level of diversity in not only YA Fantasy, but in Fantasy in general is becoming more commonplace and I fully support this shift.
While Ace of Shades has a largely male cast of characters (though it definitely passes the Bechdel Test), King of Fools takes that cast and expands it, and that expansion is almost solely female characters. Not only does Enne take a step away from Levi and his crew and venture off on her own in New Reynes, but she makes a gang of her own, who are all women.
Besides her gang of girls, who ironically call the abandoned building of Madame Fausting’s Finishing School their headquarters, both Levi and Jac bring new women into their ranks. The two of them bring out sides of both Levi and Jac that we didn’t see in Ace of Shades, so their inclusion in King of Fools not only gives us more BAMF women characters, but so brings Levi and Jac out of their own shadows and step outside the paths that they were going down, while these women remain autonomous, with wants and needs of their own.
Another similarity to Six of Crows, The Shadow Game showcases the importance of found family and how family is what you make of it. Just because someone is family by blood doesn’t mean that they should take up all of your time and energy. It’s a major theme throughout King of Fools, in more ways than one, and I can’t wait to dive more into it in the third installment, which Amanda is currently working on.
Not only is found family important, but there are different levels of it within The Shadow Game, and some of it is how it can go wrong. It shows the corruption of it when it’s forced, the breakdown of it when trust is broken, or how it can slowly separate due to different aspirations and greed. On the opposite side of the deterioration of found family, there is also the making of it within the destruction of something else, how life moves on and new connections can be made, along with opening up and letting others in despite being burned in the past.
All of these are aspects of found family that are realistic and happen outside of Fantasy, which is what adds another layer to my complicated feelings towards The Shadow Game. Realistic relationships, quarls, and setbacks adds depth to character development and Amanda Foody’s characters grew incredibly within King of Fools.
I talked a lot about aesthetic and how similar Six of Crows and The Shadow Game were when it came to the vibe they gave off so I want to go into that further. Both Ketterdam and New Reynes are dock towns, littered with street gangs and crime. With the same backdrop, of course they’d feel similar. While both have gambling dens, talk of red light districts, and how the city can corrupt anyone, they both also can be set apart just as easily.
Ketterdam is loosely based on Amsterdam and the Dutch Republic, whereas New Reynes is comparable to New Jersey. The Shadow Game’s usage of street gangs and crime lords is akin to mob bosses in pinstripe suits, 1920s cars, and prohibition parlors. New Reynes is in the midst of rebuilding after a revolution, and is littered with ruined districts, curfews, fear, and laced with political intrigue in King of Fools when the gang is asked (re: made) to rig an election. In my mind I imagine it to look like Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them , which meshes with the whole 1920’s mob aesthetic.
So while they are similar in certain ways, it’s the major plot differences that makes The Shadow Game stand out against Six of Crows. As a huge fan of both I’m always on the lookout for kindred series, for lack of a better word. They both give off the same aura, and would read each over and over.