Review: Shadow’s Son by Jon Sprunk
Published June 8th by Pyr
Cuddle-worthy assassins, a spunky ghost only he can see, and several plots to overthrow the government and the Church; Shadow’s Son has it all.
Caim has no loyalties, no family and no one he would consider a friend, except maybe Kat, a ghost that has been following him around since he was a child. When he gets a last-minute job to kill a rich old man inside his villa, he gets involved in the struggle for power of several influential groups. Together with the daughter of his intended target he tries to uncover what’s going on before they get killed themselves.
Shadow’s Son is set in a fantasy world distinctly reminding of the Rome of about the time of Augustus. There are mentions of aquaducts, villas and a Pantheon (including a hole in the ceiling as the real-world pantheon has). The names and political systems might be different, but the city even seems to be built on several hills (as Rome is famously built on seven). There is a tension between the old faith, a polytheistic religion, and the new and imposed faith, a monotheistic religion. I quite enjoyed the setting, but I wondered why the author made up fantasy names if it’s so obviously inspired by Rome. Just call the cow a cow and make it an alternate history without the bother of all the fancy fantasy names.
Some people have mentioned the use of clichés in Shadow’s Son. I won’t deny this; there are several clichés in the book, and if you’re sensitive for that kind of thing it might not be for you. Even though the set-up of the story is a cliché (assassin rescues a girl instead of killing her, everyone is out to get them) the story in itself is very well done and exciting. The book reads as one big action-packed adventure with enough political intrigue and different factions with different interests to keep you hooked.
There is a romance of sorts in Shadow’s Son, but I loved how subtle and not so in-your-face it was. I hate the kind where the couple instantly have the hots for each other and pronounce their love after two hours. No such thing happens in Shadow’s Son. They might find each other attractive, yes, but their relationship is complicated and well, realistic. The man is an assassin for god’s sake, you can’t fall in love with that without doubting your sanity.
Assassin fantasy seems to become more prevalent these days, and Shadow’s Son is a good example of how the subject can be handled. The fact that Caim kills people isn’t glossed over, but he isn’t an unrelatable monster. At times the story becomes rather grim; about as grim as a mix between Robin Hobb (not so grim) and Joe Abercrombie (very grim), if that’s any indication. Recommended for people that like their fantasy a bit darker, that enjoy Roman-like settings, and that enjoy their fantasy in books that don’t weigh a ton.
Treachery and corruption lurk at the end of every street, in the holy city of Othir. It’s the perfect place for a freelance assassin with no loyalties and even fewer scruples. Caim makes—or perhaps more accurately, takes—his living on the edge of a blade. Murder is a risky business, but so far he reckons he’s on the right side of it. Or he was… because when a short-notice contract job goes south, Caim finds himself thrust into the middle of a sinister plot in which he seems to be one of the primary marks. Pitted against crooked lawmen, rival killers and the darkest kinds of sorcery, it’s going to take more than luck if he’s to get through this alive. He may lack scruples, but he’s still got his knives, and his instincts, to rely on—and a developed sense of revenge, or should that be justice?—to fall back on. But when his path leads him from the hazardous back streets of Othir and into the highest halls of power, will instincts and weapons alone really be enough? If Caim is really going to unravel the plot which has snared him, to unmask a conspiracy at the heart of the empire, he will have to finally claim his birthright as the Shadow’s Son…
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