I am happy to share my gushing review of Shadows of the White City by Jocelyn Green! It is the second book in her “Windy City Saga”, but it can be read as a standalone. Fans of immersive historical fiction with a slight hint of romance with enjoy this story!
The one thing Sylvie Townsend wants most is what she feared she was destined never to have–a family of her own. But taking in Polish immigrant Rose Dabrowski to raise and love quells those fears–until seventeen-year-old Rose goes missing at the World’s Fair, and Sylvie’s world unravels.
Brushed off by the authorities, Sylvie turns to her boarder, Kristof Bartok, for help. He is Rose’s violin instructor and the concertmaster for the Columbian Exposition Orchestra, and his language skills are vital to helping Sylvie navigate the immigrant communities where their search leads.
From the glittering architecture of the fair to the dark houses of Chicago’s poorest neighborhoods, they’re taken on a search that points to Rose’s long-lost family. Is Sylvie willing to let the girl go? And as Kristof and Sylvie grow closer, can she reconcile her craving for control with her yearning to belong?
Shadows of the White City is a fascinating story of belonging, grace, and chosen family.
The unique almost-generational look this connected series affords is giving readers a glimpse into the life of Sylvie years after she has matured beyond her behavior and trials in Veiled in Smoke. I appreciate her perspective and how events in both books show the impact progress and choices make on generations. Fans of the first book will be happy to see glimpses of Meg’s family!
The 1893 Chicago World’s Fair serves as a brilliant character of its own. Green’s meticulous research combines with her wordsmithing to paint an immersive setting. I felt like I was experiencing the opulence of world cultures and accents blended in a spectacle of progress and education.
Through Sylvie and Rose’s relationship, Shadows of the White City explores the meaning of family, home, grace, and the tough choices that come with adoption. Themes of faith, acceptance, and belonging are woven throughout, with Sylvie examining her own motivations and growing through the story. Kristof’s character and some of his challenges echo this same exploration in his relationship with his trying younger brother, Gregor.
Sylvie and Rose’s relationship, and their need to fully understand and reconcile their respective roles, are at the forefront of the story, keeping a quick pace through exciting sequences and many possibilities as to who is involved. (What a great cast!) The tentative romance between Sylvie and Kristof, though, is my personal favorite aspect of the story – especially their dynamic friendship! I appreciate their natural and respectful relationship and their understanding of the seriousness of commitment at this point in their lives. They are a slightly older-than-average pairing, and I am here for more of this in Christfic thankyouverymuch!
Another favorite part of this novel is the way music and literature play into the situations and moments between the characters. The timeless concepts and characterization found in classic literature are referenced and discussed by Rose, Sylvie, and Meg. Kristof relates music as a metaphor for different aspects of life. I LOVE how Green consciously uses books and music as a lens through which Kristof and Sylvie process and see the world.
Thank you to the publisher for the review copy. This is my honest review.