‘The Last Shadow’ Review

By Cassandra 

‘The Last Shadow’ by Orson Scott Card is the sixth novel in the Ender Saga

This novel ties together the original Ender Saga with the Shadow Series. For readers who need a refresher, ‘The Last Shadow’ directly follows the events of ‘Children of the Mind’ (1996) and ‘Shadows in Flight’ (2012).

As the children of Ender and Bean solve the great problem of the Ender Universethe deadly virus they call the descolada, which is incurable and will kill all of humanity if it were allowed to escape from Lusitania. One planet. Three sapient species living peacefully together. And one deadly virus that could wipe out every world in the Starways Congress, killing billions. Is the only answer another great Xenocide?

Firstly, I cannot recommend this novel as an introduction point for readers starting the Enderverse. The novel does not work well as a stand alone novel and I highly advise readers to reacquaint themselves with Bean’s children in ‘Shadows in Flight’ and the descolada virus in Lusitania before taking this on.

I was surprised to discover that much of ‘The Last Shadow’ revolves around new Enderverse characters: Bean’s grandchildren. These Delphiki children are every bit as brilliant and sarcastic (and absurdly named) as their parents in ‘Shadows in Flight’, so much so, that I question why Card chose to invent new main characters at all for his final book in the Ender Saga. Other returning characters include Peter (Ender’s auia reincarnate), Si Wang-Mu, Jane, and a few others that I will let fans uncover for their enjoyment.

I enjoyed reading how Lusitania and the rest of the settled worlds developed after the events of ‘Children of the Mind’ and I was happy to learn what some of my favorite Ribeira family members have been up to.  However, I was a little disappointed that some characters were name-dropped, but were left out of the plot. Valentine was notably missing from the pages of ‘The Last Shadow’.

The story picks up several years after the events of ‘Children of the Mind’. With the time passed, the characters in ‘The Last Shadow’ seem much less motivated to solve the descolada mystery quickly. Coupled with the fact that a real virus (Covid-19) has negatively impacted the world in the last couple years, the fictional descolada virus loses some of its perceived danger.

Considering how many decades fans have waited to uncover the mystery of the descolada origins, I fear that some fans will be disappointed with the concluding story Card has given them. Without providing spoilers, Card has both given fans a half answer and reinforced the mystery. Card addresses the possibility for reader disappoint in his acknowledgments, but shares this solace:

“Novels must resemble reality as well as fulfill our dreams and wishes, and in reality some historical and scientific questions remain mysteries” (‘The Last Shadow’, page 313).

I personally enjoyed the story Card presents in ‘The Last Shadow’. I found the story to be colorful, intriguing, and full of surprises. Although the conclusion may not have been what I was expecting as a fan, I am truly satisfied. I think if you can accept that Card has a wonderful and wild story to tell about generational healing, you will enjoy this final novel in the Ender Saga.

‘The Last Shadow’ strongly hints that it will be the last novel in the Ender Saga. Addressing the idea of future generations of Enderverse characters, Card writes, “I am not the novelist who will recount that adventure” (313).

Will not give any further review of ‘The Last Shadow’ lest I accidentally spoil this final Ender Saga novel for fans.

‘The Last Shadow’ is available for purchase today. Purchase it on Amazon or your local bookstore.

Disclaimer: A special thanks to Tor Books for providing ‘The Last Shadow’ for review. All opinions are my own.