This novel is the perfect follow-up to Ender's Shadow, showing the further development of Bean's character and his coming into humanity -- he is still the calculating machine of the earlier novel, but he now allows himself to have genuine human attachments, not just the calculated relationships of Rotterdam and Battle School. However, to have the full emotional impact, one must read the first novel first (people may find this to be a truism in a novel series, but there have been several series that I have managed to read not only out of order but in reverse order without losing what is necessary to follow the action or characters). In many ways, Card is an adept at playing on emotions - as Petra notes at one point, one can know an author is deliberately setting you up for a particular emotional response in a very blatant way, and still not be able to prevent that response. I was in tears twice during this novel, even knowing what was looming ahead.
Orson Scott Card admits that his original idea for this book ended up getting split into two novels, and perhaps I would have been impatient had he decided to fuse what will now be two novels into one really long one (not impatient because I can't handle the length - my favorite books are all over 700 pages long - but because he would've published later). But I think I could have withstood the wait! I hate it when he finishes his novels in the middle. The post-Ender's Game trilogy irritated me in that very way. I understand that he does better than many authors in staying true to reality, and in that way one can't expect all ties to be neatly gathered at the end, but for crying out loud this is fiction, and I need more resolution than Peter getting to be Hegemon at the end! (I'm not giving anything away plot-wise really because: 1) Orson Scott Card's novels are almost never about plot but about character development 2) Anyone who has read the Ender's Game books know that Peter ends as Hegemon eventually anyway.)
Card has been very smart in these books, Ender's Shadow and Shadow of the Hegemon, for he always leaves a big hole for one to peer into and wonder: What is happening in there? People may have seen Achilles' escape at the end of Ender's Shadow as an obvious ploy to a sequel (which it was), but I found the disclosure of Bean's probable future physical development to be even more intriguing -- how long does Bean have to live? What will he accomplish before he dies? This question remains open at the end of Shadow of the Hegemon, and one knows this will hang until the 4th book - or 5th if Card ends up splitting up another novel.
For the sake of the reader, Card, please don't split another novel! Just make an extra-long one! If kids can handle a 700 page Harry Potter book, Card fans can handle an 800-page Bean book! Argh!
Review written by Mary Pat Campbell January 21, 2001.