The Shadowed Flame

Book 1 of The Sundered Worlds Trilogy

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Pub Date 07 Sep 2021 | Archive Date 22 Sep 2021
Naomi Hughes, Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA), Members' Titles

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A "young YA" perfect for fans of Percy Jackson!


Jackson Harper slays monsters on the sly.

He's a unicorn rider, a defender of the territory. But he has to keep that a secret, because technically he's supposed to be pure of heart to be approved for a unicorn bond, and his shady past rules that out. If the authorities catch him now, his monster-slaying dream job is all over.

But when a snake-dragon battle gets out of hand, he's forced to get help from a real rider: Moira Maldrigo. She used to be his best friend and unrequited crush. Now, she's duty-bound to turn him in to the unicorn regiment.

But the unicorns have a dark secret too. And when Jackson and Moira stumble on it, they're caught up in a battle that's much bigger, and deadlier, than they'd ever anticipated.

A "young YA" perfect for fans of Percy Jackson!


Jackson Harper slays monsters on the sly.

He's a unicorn rider, a defender of the territory. But he has to keep that a secret, because technically...

Available Editions

EDITION Paperback
ISBN 9781736394335
PRICE $15.99 (USD)

Available on NetGalley

NetGalley Shelf App (EPUB)
Send to Kindle (EPUB)

Average rating from 73 members

Featured Reviews

*Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for a copy in exchange for an honest review*

The Shadowed Flame by Naomi Hughes follows Jackson, a unicorn rider, defender of the territory. But he has to keep that a secret, because technically he’s supposed to be of pure heart, but his shady past says otherwise. However, when a dragon battle gets out of hand, he needs the help of a real rider: Moira Maldrigo, his ex-best friend and unrequited crush. But the unicorns, even bonded with riders, have dark secrets. And when Jackson and Moira stumble upon it, they’re caught in a battle bigger, and deadlier, than imagined.

Omg Naomi Hughes has not let me down yet. I love her writing style. For this book, it’s said to be a younger YA novel perfect for Percy Jackson fans, and it is EXACTLY that! The sarcasm and jokes that Jackson has, it’s like Percy. In dire situations? Jackson jokes like Percy. And I absolutely love it.

Romance: I was not really expecting a romance, but I was wrong. And I am SO glad about it. I love the romance between Jackson and Moira. It’s so cute and so pure, I love it.

Plot: at first I was a little hesitant about the plot, but that changed very quickly. I love it. It’s such an easy read that you don’t even realize you just read 100 pages. Hughes has a way with plot to keep you engaged, and it did nothing disappoint.

I can’t wait for the second book in this series! If you are looking for a fast paced, easy read with lots of banter, The Shadowed Flame is perfect for you!

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Thank you ever so much to IBPA and NetGalley for an eARC to Naomi Hughes' book "The Shadowed Flame." This is the first book in the series. My opinion is purely my own and unbiased.

Review: 5 stars.

I must admit, I have read Mercurial by Hughes prior to this (Again thank you to NetGalley for that eARC too) and I have fallen in love with the way she writes. This story follows our MC, Jackson. He is such a well thought out character and I am very excited to continue a journey with him in the books to come. His love interest and amazing partner in crime is Moira. I am absolutely in love with the way Hughes writes women. Moira is a unicorn rider and archer who is a total badass.
Overall, I adored this book and I will not rest until I can get my hands onto book 2. Thank you Naomi for writing such a spectacular book.

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*Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for a copy in exchange for an honest review*

Such a fun book! This is perfect for my classroom library--entertaining, realistic and sharp dialogue, distinctive characters, and just enough surprises to keep it interesting without feeling forced.

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Freaking fantastic. Jackson's hide-your-fear-by-joking personality shines through the deep, first person POV, allowing me to quickly connect with him and grasp the workings of unicorn magick.
I'm not opposed to the idea of unicorns, but I did think of them as sparkly creatures that only respond to the pure of heart. Here? Expect something along those lines, but with more darkness and coolness thrown in. So much thought is put into explaining their lore, and ultimately discovering their true origins, lending tons of depth to a magical species we typically associate with rainbows and glitter. So if you think unicorns are too immature for you, throw that thought out the window!
As for Moira, she stands on her own with her own goals and truly is a kick-ass character. I enjoyed watching her reconnect with Jackson and see the layers to her character be revealed bit by bit.
The book contains some really neat twists, with the most important one catching me off guard because I wasn't expecting it (my jaw literally dropped.) Looking back, I should've guessed.
Overall, I enjoyed reading this book and I'm excited for what's in the next installment.

Thank you to Netgalley for providing the e-arc.

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The stability of the Sundered World has been deteriorating ever since the disappearance of its magik. Monsters now abound surviving territories. Jackson Harper, a sixteen year old unicorn rider, helps to slay those monsters as a sort of personal penance for previous misdeeds. He does this under the radar of the Unicorn Rider Regiment because he fears what would happen if they uncovered his past. But in a particularly close fight with a dragon, Jackson finds himself facing certain death, and the person who comes to his rescue happens to be a real stickler of a Regiment Rider: Moira, his long-lost childhood friend. Moira shows hostile resentment towards Jackson as soon as she realizes who he is, so initially, it doesn’t seem fortuitous that she might hold his fate in her hands. But then Jackson hears fragments of a cryptic prophecy, and the two are forced to work together as the fate of much larger things fall into their hands. Can the unicorns be trusted? Will they unravel the prophecy in time to save what's left of their world?

Told in first-person from Jackson’s perspective, the action accelerates quickly. The world-building seems a bit lacking in terms of physical environment, culture, and social systems. But the escapades are equal parts dire and amusing, as Jackson has both a foot-in-mouth and tongue-in-cheek personality. And the brand of unicorn lore in this book is refreshingly unique, since the unicorns are pretty much a self-organized band of defenders, and riders are not restricted to “pure” women, as per the norm.

Considering the characters, Jackson & Moira make an entertaining team. Their energies bounce off each other in a complimentary way. Jackson is generally impulsive and has a tendency to panic and use humor as a defense mechanism, while Moira‘s baseline is level-headed, focused, and seriously determined. On a deeper level, Jackson can actually be quite intuitive and empathetic. He can also be starkly honest when he lets down his guard. Moira, on the other hand, is compassionate and devoted deep down, but she’s proud, too. It takes her longer to open up. All the same, I found the romantic subplot cute. The chemistry is somewhat reminiscent of Ron & Hermione from Harry Potter. But the relationship progresses rather quickly. That may be realistic for a possible end-times romance, but I would’ve liked to see their connection grow over the next few books.
As for the plot, some aspects do seem a bit convenient. I think dramatically theatrical scenes are part of a deliberate vibe, though. There was one thing I really didn’t think made sense, but it didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the story. For a YA book written for a younger audience, The Shadowed Flame surprised me more than I expected, especially where the prophecy was concerned. I guessed some things right early on, but also guessed some wrong, and only put certain pieces together as they were finally revealed. Of course, how and when the realizations come will be different for everyone. 

With themes of forgiveness, redemption, and loyalty explored in a fun, adventurous way, I would definitely recommend The Shadowed Flame to anyone who reads Middle-Grade/YA fantasy. But yes, especially if you liked Percy Jackson!

Thank you NetGalley and Naomi Hughes for providing me an eArc in exchange for my honest review.

Trigger Warnings mentioned by the author:

-Abusive father
-Monster fights/battle violence
-Description of bodies post-hanging (not too graphic, and not a person of color)
-Parent with PTSD flashbacks
-Parents sacrificing themselves to save a child's life
-Stabbing injuries

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The Shadowed Flame is a fast paced and fun YA novel. Hughes has created a world drained of magic - all except the unicorns. The unicorns have their own society - and their own secrets - which provide a nice counterbalance to the riders. The central characters, Jackson and Moira, are really lovable. Jackson is afraid of his past and makes jokes to hide his fear. Moira has suffered some trauma int he past, but has used it to try to make herself stronger - together they make a fabulous team who show the importance of being around someone who brings out the best in you. The story is non-stop action and movement, making it am easy read as you can't wait to find out what happens next. Warning: this ends on a cliff hanger, so be prepared to order the next one in the series - you won't be able to help it!

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Disclaimer: I was given an advanced reader copy for an honest review

The Shadowed Flame was one of the most enjoyable reads I've had in a long time. The story was fun and lively with enough questions to have you look up and realize you've been reading for more than you had planned.

For this being the first book Jackson and Moira are some of the most developed and intricate characters. They have pasts that justify their morals and it feels as though a lot of care was taken in their writing.

Full of mysteries and legends that will keep you guessing until the very end.

If you love a book that feels real and action packed, this is the book for you. Jackson will have you laughing to tears one chapter than sobbing the next.

This is a powerful story and I see it becoming the next great. Step aside Percy Jackson and Harry Potter, This is the book every kid will be begging their parents to get. This is the book teachers will use to show children how fantastic reading is. This will be the book series of a generation.

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