The whole cast narration was by far the most interesting and easily listened to I have ever experienced. The story of Bean was heart wrenching for this mother. It was the kind of a story that I am grateful my son read when he was in middle school. He introduced Ender and Bean to me at the beginning of a long drive. I am now looking for excuses to take long drive to continue with the next book. Salute to Orson Scott Card for a masterful composition.
I enjoyed learning about Bean more, his past, his future. I enjoyed even more getting more depth to Ender's universe. Unfortunately my favorite part of the book Ender's Game (the middle of the book, during Battle School) was my least favorite part of this book.
The voice acting in this reading is just as amazing as it was for the Ender's Game unabridged audiobook, with possibly all of the actors from that reading returning for this one. I absolutely love their exchanged dialog sections, with the actors portraying their main characters wonderfully.
*Mid-book Spoilers Ahead*
My qualms with this book lie in the story setup: Bean in this story is written as the most brilliant soldier that has passed through battle school, recognized by all as a "force of nature" in terms of intellect. And yet Ender doesn't even know he exist until that point in the Ender's Game book when Bean was introduced. And it gets pretty laborious when Orson Scott Card starts smacking you with this explanation repeatedly around when Dragon Army is formed.
Bean's given a cold, calculating personality, and basically the script to Ender's Game to peak through occasionally. Not literally, of course, but the revelations in this book come through as long-winded logic sessions (Bean's internal monologue in this book is extremely long-winded), whereas the revelations in Ender's Game came through cutaways to other characters or things revealed suddenly to Ender. Bean, in this book, basically guesses (correctly) all the major plot points before they are even thought of in the Ender's Game book, and then stands around unsurprised as they're revealed to everyone else. It reeks of "Mary Sue-ism" commonly found in fanfictions.
The worst parts are when this book has to line up with the dialog and actions that played out in Ender's Game. I suppose, since you're literally in another character's mind, it could be attributed to differences in perspective. But Card doesn't alter the dialog exchanged at all (he literally copy-pasted dialog from Ender's Game; which is a good thing with these scenes, they play out exactly the same). But instead, Card has to come up with Idiot Ball moments for Bean ("Stupid! That was a stupid thing to say!") so that he can say the same dialog that was first written in Ender's Game, yet try and match it up with his literal genius intellect that he now suddenly has in this book. Card outright changed a couple of details from the original book, but now I'm nitpicking a bit.
The worst of these scenes were the two where Bean speaks privately to Ender: in Ender's Game, the narration was turned over to Bean. We were inside Bean's mind in the Ender's Game book for these couple of brief periods; they're what made me love Bean as a character. And those scenes in this book are entirely different tonally due to Bean's constant diversions into his own head and his snarky internal remarks. Internal remarks to dialog in Ender's Game flowed nicely and gave insight in the character saying them; Internal remarks to dialog in Ender's Shadow flow like river of bricks and shivs.
That said, this book is still good enough for a once-through because Bean has a much higher attention to detail than Ender did, and thus you get a lot more of the little details about the Battle School than Ender ever gave, including descriptions of the battle room's stars, explanation of natural gravity differences in the school, and even a passing description of the infamous Hook used in the battle room.
In addition to Bean, many of the secondary characters from Ender's Game are given more depth to their personality. Graff is less of a figure-in-the-shadows in this book, and some of Ender's friends are analyzed as well. And a bunch of Ender's nameless-faceless soldiers are named as well.
The subplot on Earth in this book is exceptional, with a lot of my favorite the plot twists coming from there rather than the A-Plot in the Battle School; granted, I had read Ender's Game first, so I already knew what the plot had in store in the Battle School.
If I had to recommend this book, I'd recommend reading it only AFTER reading Ender's Game, since the plot is considerably better paced in that book than this. Pick up this book if you want a different perspective on the events in Ender's Game, but brace yourself if you liked Bean's character.