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Ada's Story: Becoming a Shadow

Updated: Mar 19

Losing her identity, becoming something new.
Ada, a Shadow in the making.

Born to a wealthy family in Victorian London, eight-year-old Ada is destined to marry a man of her father’s choosing and never want for anything… except freedom. As the first and only child, she is afforded privileges usually reserved for a male heir. Papa teaches her to play chess, allows her time with his horse, and even reads her bedtime stories. The sudden, unexpected death of Ada’s mother plunges the household into chaos, and Papa into alcoholism. Amid the ensuing turmoil, Ada is abducted by a clandestine society—one that preys on the aristocracy.


She journeys through her early teenage years under the tutelage of captor and proxy mother, Mistress Nadine, a woman of some standing among a group of assassins and thieves known as Shadows. The organization’s primary enlistment scheme is to take in and groom street children to follow in their footsteps, and Ada is an unlikely recruit. According to Nadine, Ada was kidnapped in pursuit of a ransom that Papa refused to pay. Later, Nadine changed the story and said Papa sold Ada to avoid paying the customary “brideswealth”. Either way, young Ada is a protégée to her charitable if frightening benefactor.


Compelled to sacrifice her own moral compass, Ada navigates a treacherous path of deception and danger as she trains to become a Shadow. She learns to steal, spy, and is trained in martial arts; yet she continues to grapple with the dichotomy of her new physical and spiritual identity. To atone for her perceived mortal sins, she saves the life of a sickly recruit destined to die, sharing meals with and taking up for the child even when doing so results in punishment.


The story evolves over several years as Ada forges unexpected alliances amid the strictly controlled environment in which she is forced to live. Her compassion, obstinance, and ingenuity come to play repeatedly as she tries to reconcile her ethics with her probable future.

As she nears her 17th birthday, Ada must take on the mantel of her mistress and become a predator, targeting members of the very nobility to which she was born. Her only other option is escape. But, if she leaves, she risks the lives of the two she loves most: her adopted sister and her captor.


Set in a world that is equal parts history and fantasy, Shadow Runner is a Dickensian tale that asks the question, what happens to a good person when survival requires embracing darkness? Themes include finding one’s own identity, bullying, the true cost of independence, class differences and struggles, and historical attitudes about a woman’s place in the world.

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