Ender’s Shadow, Orson Scott Card (TOR, 2005)

Cover of "Ender's Shadow"

Grade: Β — Fantastic book within the genre, probably worth reading regardless of which genre’s you like, but has a setting or style that may not appeal to individuals who are not fans of a given genre.  

In brief:

Ender’s Shadow by Orson Scott Card, is a companion/parallel tale to his brilliant novel Ender’s Game.  It effectively tells the same story as the original but from a different Point of View (POV), and while this sounds like a set up for a miserable book, it is anything but.  If you enjoyed Ender’s Game it is well worth a look, and if you haven’t read it, you will still enjoy this book without picking up the other (but I’d still read Ender’s Game first). 


The mid-to-Far future where humanity is in a xenocidic war with a ruthless alien species. Interstellar transport exists, though at slower-than-light-speeds, but communications can be conducted Faster-than-light.

In Depth:

Ender’s Shadow proved to be a very hard book to grade. I had to look at it as both a sequel of sorts, and as a stand-alone novel in its own terms.  Thus to evaluate it, I had to try to imagine what it would be like to read this if I was not already familiar with Ender’s Game.  In the end, I gave it a Beta rating because it is good, but necessarily derivative of its predecessor.  Having said that, I suspect someone who reads this book on its own will thoroughly enjoy it without reading the prequel, and that is a testimony to Orson Scott Card’s writing.

In essence, Ender’s Shadow looks at the events that form the central plotline of Ender’s Game from a different point of view: that of Ender’s Second in Command, Bean.  It does not, however, make the mistake of retelling Ender’s story.  Rather it is wholly a book about Bean, who he is and how he came to be.  It begins when Bean is just two years old, and trying to survive in the Ghetto streets of a nightmare vision of Rotterdam in the future.  He is exceptionally small and weak for his age, but hyper intelligent, which allows him to make his way until he finds help from some of his more kind hearted fellow urchins.  Yet, this is no happy-go-lucky, sanitized Oliver Twist story; it shows child-gangs in a realistic combination of kind and cruel that are earmarks of a classic Orson Scott Card tale.  It also creates a fascinating counter-point character to Ender: the cunning, cold and yet totally sympathetic Bean.

Though I am not a huge fan of graphic novels, I thought this image did a good job of portraying the disfunctional, ghetto-esque nature of Bean's early childhood

What makes Bean a truly interesting character is that he is fundamentally calculating and aloof.  Even his signs of affection are thought out in order to manipulate others. Yet he remains sympathetic, even as he combats his nemesis Achille.  The great strength of Bean is that understands driving force of other individuals and as such makes a perfect candidate for Battle School, once his talents are discovered.  Unlike Ender, however, his cruel upbringing and inhuman calculations make his far less charismatic than the boy to whom he will become a shadow. In creating such a different character with such a different arc, Card manages to pull off the impossible: he kept me interested in a story that I already knew the end of.

Once Bean is in Battle School, the story follows a parallel course to that of Ender’s Game.  Yet we are not watching Ender’s trials and tribulations in that hard environment, we are watching Beans.  Thus the story is unique enough that one keeps turning the pages despite the foreknowledge of how things will turn out. 

While one could easily read this book as a stand-alone, I would still read Ender’s Game first.  After all, if one knows how the Bugger War (yes… giggles), turns out I don’t think you would enjoy that book as much as it deserves, while I did enjoy Ender’s Shadow just perfectly having read the initial book. 

About Thomas Evans

I'm a writer of mysteries, espionage, and speculative fiction. In my previous incarnation I was an archaeologist specializing in gender and identity in Iron and Bronze Age Europe. Mostly, however, I was known for my works with the use of geomatics, multiscalular spatial analysis and landscape theory within archaeology.
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5 Responses to Ender’s Shadow, Orson Scott Card (TOR, 2005)

  1. Yolanda says:

    I have heard that the other books in the Ender’s series weren’t nearly as good as Ender’s Game (which was fabulous). I think I will have to give this one a shot. Thanks for the review!

    • Thomas Evans says:

      Weeeelllll… it’s not as good as Ender’s Game, bu then again Ender’s Game is one of my favorite books so it really couldn’t be.

      What’s more, the subsequent books in the Shadow series gradually decrease in quality… still Shadow is enjoyable and builds upon the ideas he introduced in Ender’s Game.

      I owe you a book don’t I? Sorry it’s taken me some time… things are nuts right now.

      • Yolanda says:

        I just bought Ender’s Shadow and will read it soon. And yes, I know you moved so I am patiently waiting for the book. Also, let me know when you’re ready to do the guest blog post.

      • Thomas Evans says:

        When ever you’d like! When last we spoke, you had more than a little on your plate and I had no desire to push you… but I would be delighted to have you do an article at anytime!

  2. Pingback: Wait, I Thought Archetypes Were Good? « The Raptor's Claw

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