Ender’s Shadow is and always has been one of my favorite books in this series. Bean, even smarter than Ender and not hindered by all those guilty feelings, just fascinates me. As with the others, I listened to this on audiobook and the narrators continued their awesomeness. Ender’s Shadow acts as a companion novel to Ender’s Game — you don’t need to read Ender’s Game first, but I still recommend that you do. Ender’s Shadow works best to flesh out that already existing story.
“That was interesting, to find that it wasn’t hunger that caused children to become bullies on the street. The bulliness was already in the child, and whatever the stakes were, they would find a way to act as they needed to act. … Intelligence and education, which all these children had, apparently didn’t make any important difference in human nature.”
As a four year old child on the streets of Rotterdam, Bean uses his incredible intelligence to find his way into a street gang, lead by a nine year old girl named Poke. When the gang allies with a dangerous bully named Achilles, Bean realizes he needs to escape if he wants to live. His salvation comes in the form of Sister Carlotta, a nun determined to rescue street children by testing them and getting them into either battle school (in space) or a school on earth. Sister Carlotta, by the way? Hands down one of my favorite Orson Scott Card characters. Smart, witty, dangerous. She rocks. Bean ends up in battle school, of course, and tries to pave his own way while enduring constant comparisons to Ender. Bean and Ender are really quite different — on the outside, yes, both are small and smart. But Bean has none of Ender’s compassion and guilt — Bean is all brains. And learning why he is the way he is composes one of the more interesting plot lines of the novel.