Cover of Cast in Secrets and Shadow, featuring a silver cup with shadowy figures on it in front of axes and swords

About the Book

Title: Cast in Secrets and Shadow (Loresmith #2)
Published: 2021
Series: Loresmith
Swoonworthy Scale: 7

Cover Story: Knives (and Swords and Axes) Out
BFF Charm: Yay
Talky Talk: Bridge Book
Bonus Factors: Found Families, Quests, Gods
Anti-Bonus Factor: Child Abuse
Relationship Status: I’m Still Here

Red alert! Cast in Secrets and Shadow is the second book in the Loresmith series. If you have not read the previous book in this series (Forged in Fire and Stars), man your battle stations turn away now, as there might be spoilers in this review. If you’re caught up, however, feel free to continue below.

Cover Story: Knives (and Swords and Axes) Out

In keeping with the first cover of this series, here we’ve got a flatlay of a bunch of blacksmithy things, but this time the theme seems to be ice rather than fire. (I would have gone with shadows, but that’s just me.) Still not loving the little silhouettes at the bottom, however. The lack of detail is so obvious when compared with the rest of the items on this cover, particularly those axes.

The Deal: 

After the perilous events of the first leg of their quest—and an unexpected betrayal—Ara, Nimhea, Lahvja, and Teth are reeling. They know what they need to do, i.e., rebuild the Loreknights of old, and properly this time, but they don’t know exactly how to do it. The Vokkans are hot on their trail, however, so they need to pick up the pace and hope the gods are on their side.

BFF Charm: Yay

Yay BFF Charm

Although we’re still good friends, I struggled with some of Ara’s decisions in this second book, especially those around her feelings for Teth. She’s the Chosen One, yes, but that doesn’t mean that she has to forego all personal interests and comforts, but she doesn’t quite get that until a bunch of angst has transpired. I get it—it’s very fitting for a teenager blessed/cursed with a gift from the gods to have to work through a lot of conflicting feelings. But had she just asked for my, her BFF’s, opinion, we all would have saved ourselves some heartbreak.

Swoonworthy Scale: 7

Although Ara struggles, the chemistry between Teth and her continues to be smoking. Sadly, because of said struggles, we don’t get nearly as much of said smoke as I would have liked.

Talky Talk: Bridge Book

With Forged in Fire and Stars, Robertson did a great job of creating a new fantasy world that felt fresh while retaining a lot of the features of the YA fantasy worlds that I love. The mythology of the world, too, was fascinating, and the characters themselves (although they skewed a little younger than some) quickly became people I wanted to spend more time with. Cast in Secrets and Shadow continued to include—and introduce—great characters, but the plot suffered from the dreaded Bridge Book Blues. It has to be hard, when writing a series that involves an epic quest that spans multiple books, to find a good balance between action and plot advancement, but I wanted more of the worldbuilding I so enjoyed in book one. Don’t get me wrong, I still really enjoyed the story, but I don’t feel like I finished it knowing much more than I did when I started. 

Bonus Factor: Found Families

Characters Jen Jack and Grams from Dawson's Creek standing together

One of my favorite—if not the favorite—tropes is the idea of found families, or families of choice. It pops up frequently in YA (thankfully), but Robertson really gets at the heart of it in this series, and becomes even more of A Thing in Cast in Secrets and Shadow. Fantastical quests are always made better when you pick up complete strangers who end up becoming integral and important parts of your group, especially if you can’t fathom how they’ll fit in at the start.

Bonus Factor: Quests

Shadowed figures walking in a line across a field

If there’s one thing in fantasy novels that I’d love to be able to take part in—other than, you know, using magic—it would be an epic quest. Filled with puzzles and danger and interesting folk. I’d just miss showers and my bed, I’m sure.

Bonus Factor: Gods

A group of Greek gods from the Percy Jackson movies sit on their thrones on Mount Olympus

The gods in the Loresmith series are quirky, unpredictable, fabulous, and fearsome. They never do what the characters expect they will, and they ask the impossible of the characters (who, of course, are able to overcome their self-doubt and rise to the occasion). They’re the exact kinds of gods it’s fun to read about, particularly because they often seem so human and fallible.

Anti-Bonus Factor: Child Abuse

Clenched fist pounding into a table

This doesn’t become a plot point until almost the very end of the book, but the Vokkans definitely do not have the best interests of children in mind, and their torture of kids is utterly disturbing. (Spoiler: They’re being used for some sort of ritual. It’s not of a sexual nature.)

Relationship Status: I’m Still Here

We trekked a lot on this date, Book, and I admit that my mind wandered from time to time. (I’m not a great outdoorsperson, as much as I’d like to think I would be in such a situation.) But I’m not going anywhere; you have a lot left to do on your quest and I have a lot left to learn about how it’s all going to shake out.

Literary Matchmaking

The Guinevere Deception (Camelot Rising #1)

Kiersten White’s Camelot Rising series has similar knightly vibes.

Crown of Bones (Amassia #1)

A.K. Wilder’s Crown of Bones also features a quest … and angsty swoon.

The Bright & the Pale (The Bright & the Pale #1)

And you can’t go wrong with a quest to maybe bring your family back to life (from maybe the gods?), like in Jessica Rubinkowski’s The Bright & the Pale.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from Philomel Books, but got neither a private dance party with Tom Hiddleston nor money in exchange for this review. Cast in Secrets and Shadow is available now.

Mandy (she/her) is a manager at a tech company who lives in Austin, TX, with her husband, son, and dogs. She loves superheroes and pretty much any show or movie with “Star” in the name.