Knight’s Shadow by Sebastien de Castell
|Book Name:||Knight’s Shadow|
|Author:||Sebastien de Castell|
|Publisher(s):||Jo Fletcher Books|
|Formatt:||Hardcover / Ebook|
|Release Date:||June 2, 2015 (US) March 5, 2015 (UK)|
Knight’s Shadow is the second book in The Greatcoats series; this review will contain spoilers for Traitor’s Blade. Read with caution if you have yet to finish the first book.
Castell’s next installment of the series takes everything that made the first book great and gives it a little extra kick. The plots get more intricate, the stakes get higher, the villains get more sinister, Brasti gets even more obnoxious. The pages are filled with gripping swordfights, desperate circumstances and a cadre of excellently written characters who are all so human that they bring real life to the story.
The plot follows almost straight on from the events in the previous book, the Tailor’s new Greatcoats along with Falcio and the others working to stop Trin and put Aline on the throne, all the while dealing with the ruthless and power hungry dukes. The characters show scars from their previous encounters, Falcio suffers the worsening effects from being poisoned, Kest wrestles with the trials of sainthood, and Brasti shaky ideals start to crumble beneath him. Valiana struggles to find meaning in her life and the constant fear begins to wear on Aline. As the novel progresses each character has to face their own conflicts amid the backdrop of greater events that will decide the fate of a nation.
The questions that the previous book raised are compounded by the actions of unseen players manipulating events behind the scenes. Falcio and the others face political maneuverings, corruption, mysterious deaths and a country that’s falling apart. Old friends appear as they finally come across some of the old Greatcoats, piecing together the king’s plan. Knight’s Shadow provides a chance to showcase the real investigative skills of the travelling magistrates. Falcio does a great Sherlock impression as he tracks down assassins, pieces together clues and works to figure out just what the hell is going on in Tristia. The plot has a layer cake effect in that as soon as you think you know what’s going on, something happens to knock the ground out from under you.
All of Castell’s characters are fantastically written, from the major players to all the other diverse inhabitants they come across. Falcio meets up with a variety of important and powerful people he can insult and be rude to, from less than holy saints to pompous nobles, all are crafted with the same care and detail. A number of new villains move to stand in our heroes’ way, including one particularly memorable character whose actions were a genuine surprise. Other past acquaintances return like the deadly Dashini assassins and of course, the conniving Duchess Trin. The mysterious Tailor stills works to pull the country’s strings, her bloodthirsty tactics bringing her into conflict with Falcio, she’s backed up by her equally murderous subordinate Dariana, whose sharp tongue and sharper sword join Falcio on his travels.
The witty dialogue and banter from the previous book is back in style, working side by side with Falcio’s irreverent narrative makes for a humorous tale and provides a great counterpoint to even the worst moments of grim seriousness. Whether it’s the back and forth between Falcio and some tyrannical duke or the idle chatter between the trio, the novel will always keep the reader entertained. As much as I loved the jokes there were times of raw emotion in the book that were what really sold the story and made the characters believable, having introduced his cast, Castell uses this book to delve a little deeper into the relationships between his protagonists, the stresses of their situation allowing him to tease out more of the human element.
There’s a bit less exploration of the world in this book, although there were a couple of intriguing locations that would spoil the plot to reveal. But with all that’s going on the reader doesn’t have much time to admire the scenery. There’s a great amount of thought and detail that has gone into the plot as it unfolds through the story, talk of politics and economics that gives the narrative a sense of depth and realism that is rarely matched in other fantasy works.
Knight’s Shadow is part adventure, part mystery, all action. The story takes the characters through some of the harshest situations and most grueling challenges, it has treachery and cruelty, as well as nobility and valor. The book will snare you with daring characters and make you fear for every blade that slices their way. Knight’s Shadow is an excellent and engaging story, one of the best books I’ve read in a long time.