Shadow Girl by Kate Ristau


Áine lives in the light, but she is haunted by darkness, and when her fey powers blaze out of control, she escapes into the Shadowlands. But she cannot outrun her past. Fire fey and a rising darkness threaten the light, burning a path across the veil. Her fiery dreams come to life, and with the help of Hennessy, an uninhibited Irish girl, Áine dives into the flames to discover who she truly is. Her mother burned to keep her secret safe, and now Áine wields the deadly Eta. She must learn to fight in the shadows — or die in the flames. This is not a fairy tale.
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“Stop!” Áine screamed. “Let her go!” She pounded on the beast with her fists, but it

was hard as iron, and she left smears of blood with every punch. The beast roared in

response, but that didn’t stop her. She had to get Hennessy back. She slammed her body

into the beast and a beam of light suddenly lit up the night. Áine turned to see a man,

dressed in a long black cloak with a hood, standing by the tavern door. The ground turned

to ash around his feet and smoke poured from his fingertips. She could almost taste his

repulsive sulfur smell. His piercing red eyes glowed from beneath the shadow of his hood

and the moment she caught sight of them, she was transfixed.

Kate Ristau is an author and folklorist. She writes young adult and middle grade fiction, along with grammar primers that won’t make you cringe. In her ideal world, magic and myth combine to create memorable stories with unforgettable characters. Until she finds that world, she’ll live in Portland, Oregon with her husband, her son, and her dog. If you can’t find her there, you can find her at

Writing real

I wrote my first young adult novel six years ago.

It was fantastic. Fast-paced with a beautiful story underneath, it was steeped in Irish folklore. It was full of myth and magic, princes and fairies.

And it didn’t sell.

I thought it was perfect. I thought it was gentle and honest. But the more I shopped it, the more I realized how wrong I was.

The feedback — when I got any — was clear: the plot was too thin, the characters too naive, and the dialogue was too on the nose. How could something be to too on the nose? I wondered. And how could they miss the beauty and the wonder behind the story?

But as the rejections started piling up, I started to realize that maybe they were right. I mean, something wasn’t grabbing those agents and editors. Something wasn’t working.

So, I set out to figure out how to make things right, and a suggestion from my writing group changed the entire course of the novel.

“Why,” one of them asked, “are there no humans in this book?”

“Yeah,” another added. “I mean, she’s a fairy, but she is in our world, right?”

“Right,” I said. “Right.”

Right. And so I started to revise. I added in an Irish teenager: Hennessy. She was quick-witted and inappropriate. She was sassy. And she helped me realize how my dialogue really was so “on the nose.”

You see, I was writing the world as I wanted to see it — how I wanted it to be. I wanted the language to have deep meaning and the stories to matter. I wanted interactions to be intense and personal and…ugh. Who wants to read 200 pages of that?

When I added in Hennessy, things got funny. They got awkward. They got real. The characters stopped saying the right thing because, suddenly, there was no right thing. There was just a couple of teenagers, trying to figure out how to save the world. And they weren’t very good at it.

That novel was picked up by Lycaon Press last year. It’s called Shadowgirl. It’s fast-paced, with quick, smart dialogue. And yes, there’s still that beautiful story underneath it all. In fact, taking the time to revise it helped the real narrative finally come through.


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