This is the third book in Lucinda Riley’s Seven Sisters series based loosely on the mythology of the Pleiades (or ‘seven sisters’) star cluster. There will eventually be seven novels each telling the story of one of the adopted daughters of an enigmatic millionaire known as Pa Salt. The girls, who are all from very different backgrounds and who grew up together in Switzerland on Pa Salt’s Lake Geneva estate, are named after the stars in the cluster – Maia, Alycone (Ally), Asterope (Star), Celaeno (CeCe), Taygete (Tiggy) and Electra. There should have been a seventh sister, whose name would have been Merope, but for some reason which has not yet been revealed only six girls were adopted rather than seven.
The first book in the series, The Seven Sisters, tells Maia’s story, while the second, The Storm Sister, tells Ally’s. In The Shadow Sister, we get to know more about the third sister, Star. This novel works as a standalone, but it also follows a similar pattern to the first two, beginning just after the sisters learn of Pa Salt’s death and each receive a set of clues which he has left behind to help them discover the secrets of their origins. Star’s clues include a black panther figurine and the address of a bookshop in London. As fate would have it, she is about to move into a new London apartment with her sister CeCe, who is due to begin an art course at college. Star, who is a shy, quiet person, would prefer to live a simple life in the countryside, but she and CeCe have always done everything together – which usually means doing whatever CeCe wants.
In London, it’s not long before Star’s curiosity gets the better of her and she finds herself pushing open the door to Arthur Morston Books ready to take the first step towards uncovering the truth about her past. As Star begins to investigate, she learns of a possible connection with Flora MacNichol who grew up at Esthwaite Hall in England’s Lake District in the early 20th century and became a friend of the children’s author Beatrix Potter. With the help of Orlando Forbes, the eccentric owner of Arthur Morston Books, and his brother, the intriguingly named Mouse, Star attempts to piece Flora’s story together and in the process finds the courage to step out of CeCe’s shadow and take control of her own destiny.
I have enjoyed all three books in this series so far, but I think this one is my favourite. How could I not love a book that’s set (at least partly) in a bookshop? The characters Star meets on her journey of discovery are wonderful too – they are all so well drawn, from the melodramatic Orlando and the troubled Mouse to their artist cousin Marguerite and her little boy, Rory, who loves Superman and making chocolate brownies. I couldn’t work out, at first, exactly how Star could be linked to these people, but I wanted, desperately, for her to find a place within this family – and the relationships do all become clear eventually, with a few surprises along the way!
Flora’s story is a fascinating one too, filled with love, betrayal and deception and encompassing some of the most prominent figures in Edwardian society, including King Edward VII himself, and his mistress, Alice Keppel. I was as engrossed in Flora’s storyline as I was in Star’s; usually when a novel is set in more than one time period I find that I prefer one over the other, but with this book I enjoyed reading about both periods equally.
I was sorry that we saw nothing of Maia, Tiggy or Electra in The Shadow Sister, but it was nice to see a few appearances from Ally, the heroine of the previous novel, and to briefly pick up some of the threads from her story again. The title of book four will be The Pearl Sister and it will focus on CeCe. I was intrigued by CeCe’s character in this book – while I initially found her bossy and controlling, I can see now that there’s a lot more to her than meets the eye and I’m looking forward to getting to know her.
Thanks to the publisher for providing a copy of this book for review.