Ender's Shadow is Bean, taken into Battle School from the Rotterdam slums at the age of five. He is another genius child like Ender. Bean's early struggles have reinforced his strategic abilities, but left him emotionally scarred and stunted. In particular, he witnessed and was unable to prevent, the murder of nine year old Poke, the first person to ever show him compassion.
Bean's scores are the highest ever, but he still walks in the shadow of Ender, on whom humanity's hopes of survival are pinned. Bean studies Ender obsessively and comes to admire and love him, and to desire his approval. In the background the Battle School teachers and Colonel Graff pull the strings to study and manipulate the children, but Bean learns more than they do as he studies them in turn.
This is the story of a genetically enhanced and abused child who slowly comes to terms with his humanity as he interacts with other children, even though he always understands more than they do. In particular, he understands his own abilities and their limitations and is willing to be Ender's shadow, when that is what it takes to save humanity from the alien Buggers.
Ender's Game is one of Orson Scott Card's best works, and he is one of the top writers of speculative fiction today. He writes of the adult machinations at Battle School with a subtle and Macchiavellian pen. Ender's Shadow follows another child through the same time period and set of events, telling the story from Bean's viewpoint.
The new perspective is fascinating but Ender's Shadow deserves the limelight on its own merits. It has a delightfully sentimental ending, which still seems to be far from the end of Bean's story. I hope to read more.
Review written by Hilary Williamson, 1999.