By: Tabby RH

Meet our Author of the Month, Ashley Townsend!
Today we'll be diving into Rising Shadows and
sharing our honest review!  

In the BBC version of Robin Hood (it’s top-notch in all its quirkiness, by the way), Allan makes a questionable decision and, when confronted, protests that he didn’t have a choice. Robin grabs his shirt collar, pushes him against the wall, looks him dead in the eye, and says “Everything is a choice; everything we do.”

Aside from being stellar life-advice, Robin’s words serve as one of the themes in Ashley Townsend’s adventurous novel, Rising Shadows. Rising Shadows is the first installment in Ashley’s Rising Shadows Trilogy.

Eighteen-year-old Sarah Matthews stands on the brink of adulthood, bracing herself for yet another uneventful summer before college begins. One stormy night, she and her younger sister, Lilly, are accidentally whisked away to the medieval land of Sermione. Sermoine isn’t in the history books, and exists completely outside of our known realm. Once there, Sarah finds herself caught up in the shenanigans of her new friend, Karen, and in a rush to foil a sinister plot before time runs out. A mysterious man known as The Shadow weaves in and out of Sarah’s adventures, and he eventually turns out to be…

Ahh, *spoilers*, as River Song would say. I literally have to be so careful with this review, because there are so many spoilers I could accidentally give. But I want to focus on two things: Sarah’s relationship with Christ, and the twin-themes of personal responsibility and failure.

First off, the only negative thing I have to say about Rising Shadows revolves around character relationships. At several points throughout the novel, certain character interactions left me confused. I just felt as if I needed more background information in order to make their conversations more relatable/believable. There were points where I would have liked to see the backstory underlying Will and Seth’s relationship, in particular. I think it would have helped me in further understanding why they spoke to one another the way they did, etc. But that backstory may come with Book 2 (which I’m incredibly excited to read!).

Okay, on to my favourite bits of Rising Shadows. Sarah spoke with the Most High as if He was truly listening; as if He was her Friend and Father. It’s beautiful and it reminded me that, as Christians, prayer is a privilege that we ought to utilize more than we do. No matter her situation, Sarah found a moment to pray. When she felt overwhelmed or confused or sad or angry, she immediately brought it to her Father in prayer.

At one point, Sarah even went so far as to remind Will that God always answers prayer because even a “no” is still an answer, though it may not be the answer we desire. I found that refreshingly Biblical, and I appreciated how Ashley was able to weave so much Scriptural truth into her novel without falling into the “preachy” category.

Speaking of Will…

That man is a gem. He reminds me of one of my own characters, with his steadiness, rock-solid dependability, fierce loyalty, quiet demeanour, and darkly handsome looks (lil’ side-note: I’m grateful Ashley gave Will a tangible personality and didn’t rely on his muscular build, height, and dark hair to win the day).

Will doesn’t mess around, and I loved him greatly for that. Sarah tries to make him understand that she “doesn’t have a choice” when it comes to a tough decision, but Will firmly responds “Everything is a choice.” 

In that moment, the image I put at the beginning of this review came to mind; which was more than fitting, since Rising Shadows is a Robin Hood re-telling. Robin’s words echoed in my mind even as Will’s words passed before my eyes: Everything is a choice; everything we do. We can try to weasel our way out of facing the consequences of our actions by shrugging, lifting up our hands, and saying “Aah, I had no choice.”

Nothing could be further from the truth. We always have a choice. Even in difficult situations. Sometimes the choices aren’t that stellar and we have to pick one anyway but, lovely humans, we always have a choice and we always have to face the fall-out of our choices.

Will, Sarah, and Karen made numerous decisions throughout the novel and they all had to live with the consequences. Sometimes things turned out top-notch; sometimes they turned out real lousy, but the three main characters were never exempted from personal responsibility.

Which brings me to failure.

One character in particular (this is me trying valiantly not to give away spoilers, because I want you to be just as floored as I was by the way Ashley used foreshadowing to highlight this character’s kryptonite) faces failure in a deep, poignant way. A past failure haunts them fiercely, bringing them to their knees in a sort of dejavu moment near the novel’s end. When confronted with this bane of their existence, the character is forced to recognize an important truth regarding personal responsibility: You can always come back from failure. With the Most High God, anything is possible.

I can’t wait to see this character’s story arc in Chasing Shadows (Book 2), ‘cause I have a feeling it will be smashing.

Ashley ended Rising Shadows on a cliffhanger, bless her heart, and she’s got me all kinds of excited as I anticipate sitting down again with another one of her novels. (I read Rising Shadows in one go…that's how much of a page-turner it is haha).

So, there’s loads more I could say about the wonderful imagery which immersed me in every scene to the point where I could see the colours (Sarah’s lovely dresses) and smell the smells (Mrs. Jones’ fabulous breakfast spreads); and the budding slow-burn romance (I much prefer slow-burns over love-at-first-sight); and the medieval elements (castles, Robin Hood, arrows) but you’ll just have to read Rising Shadows for yourself. 

I’ll end with a few of my favourite quotations from the novel:

It was strange that she could be so tormented by her thoughts, while the rest of the world seemed to go on without a care.”

I do not make a promise unless I intend to see it to the end.”

The familiar feel of his trusted weapons gave him a sense of security; things were always simpler when he was armed.” (Personal favourite, hehe.)

"...making plans in the present in order to forget the questions of the past.”

But that would draw too much unwanted attention, so he held his breath, willing himself to become one with the shadows for which he was named.” (That last line is stellar!)


Sarah Matthews is nearing the end of another eventless summer in the small town of Bethany, Oklahoma. Disheartened over the reality that yet another unexciting season is coming to an end, she wishes for an unforgettable adventure to break up the monotony of life.

But when mysterious circumstances transport Sarah and her sister, Lily, back in time, she gets more excitement than she bargained for. The girls find themselves trapped in the twelfth century in a place shrouded with mystery and deception. Assassination plots, kidnappings, and tumultuous adventures force Sarah to rely on the Shadow, a masked hero who comes to her aid numerous times.

In order to uncover a conspiracy and save those closest to her, Sarah requests help from the Shadow and also from Will, the handsome and intriguing blacksmith she befriends. Sarah is strangely drawn to the excitement that seems to follow the town hero and begins to look forward to their secret encounters. She also finds herself caught in a romance with Will, despite the fact that their equally fiery personalities have a tendency to clash.

But Will's past is filled with secrets and pain, and Sarah finds it difficult to break through the walls he has built around him. She knows that in order to make things right with the kingdom and also with Will she will need more time in the forgotten land.

But when her life is put on the line, Sarah realizes that she will be permanently stranded in the past if she remains for too long and she vows to find a way back home for her and Lily... or die trying.


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