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The Shadow Saint by Gareth Hanrahan

The Shadow Saint by Gareth Hanrahan
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Book Name: The Shadow Saint
Author: Gareth Hanrahan
Publisher(s): Orbit
Formatt: Paperback / Audiobook / Ebook
Genre(s): Fantasy
Release Date: January 7, 2020 (US) January 9, 2020 (UK)

The hype surrounding a debut novel can be anxious for positive and negative reasons. This is because the author is waiting to find out what readers and critics thought of the book. The success of the book can put the author on a spectrum ranging from bad to cult fandom to excellent to classic. Yet, nothing is more anxious than waiting to see what the author releases next—if given the chance. It’s usually the second book that determines whether or not the author’s debut novel was a fluke.

In the case of Gareth Hanrahan, it was NOT a stroke of luck, but a continuation of his talent for telling stories, expanding the elements of worldbuilding and, expanding on the characters’ (fictional) lives. The Shadow Saint—book two of The Black Iron Legacy and sequel to The Gutter Prayer—is the confirmation that this author can go beyond our desires and our expectations for a sequel.

There are three new protagonists: a spy—whose name we can’t figure out due to all of his aliases; Eladora Duttin—Cari’s cousin—who attempts to move on from the events of “the Crisis” by working for Guerdon’s parliament while learning more of her family’s involvement with the occult and the gods; and, Terevant Erevesic—the second son from House Erevesic and Lieutenant of the Ninth Rifles. All three protagonists are called into Guerdon in order to accomplish the tasks assigned to them. It seems that because the tasks are straightforward, everything should go smoothly. However, with an upcoming election, angry gods, and a city full of traumatized denizens, the question isn’t if, but when these protagonists will cross paths with each other. Their stream-of-consciousness, and knowledge of their careers, and faiths and culture provide readers with both the narrative and the worldbuilding based on the events from their perspectives.

Once again, the other characters in the story serve as agents alongside the protagonists; and, with the upcoming election and war on the horizon, everyone has something to gain from the future of Guerdon. Effro Kelkin—the “chair of the emergency committee and de facto ruler of Guerdon” and Eladora’s boss—has even more to gain with the upcoming election. Emlin—the boy the spy is tasked with protecting while he completes his task—is the chosen saint of the Fate Spider, who is smuggled into Guerdon for reasons known only to his god and the priests. Olthic Erevesic—the Haith Ambassador and Terevant’s older brother—has his own ambitions, some of which put him at odds with his wife, Lyssada. He needs his brother and the family sword in order to see those ambitions through. And, while some of the characters from the first book do return in this story, readers should pay close attention to Silva Duttin—Eladora’s mother and Cari’s aunt—who is a religious zealot in her own right. All of these characters wish to acquire power in Guerdon for their purposes, but how far are they willing to go in order to achieve it? Are they willing to risk the lives of their loved ones and the wrath of the gods? Is anyone else involved in bringing or halting the war that’s coming to Guerdon?

The Shadow Saint is a sequel that serves as a follow up to the events from The Gutter Prayer while presenting conflicts both old and new to the readers. The reality within the fantasy is that while the world (and the city of Guerdon) was saved, there are those who saw opportunity within the chaos and decided to take advantage of it. The narrative takes time to uncover the numerous conspiracies regarding politics and religion while investigating the threat regarding the destruction of Guerdon and the Godswar again. Throughout the narrative and the character development, readers learn more about Guerdon and the neighboring territories through the world-building provided by the author. At the same time, readers should not assume they’ve become familiar with the author’s method of storytelling. Yes, all of the characters have desires and dilemmas they have to face, but that doesn’t mean everything will resolve itself. There are consequences to all actions and Hanrahan doesn’t want you to forget it!

One of the conflicts some authors are faced with regarding any series is the expansion of the world, and that’s why I believe the author introduces new protagonists and characters in this story. What occurred in Guerdon at the end of The Gutter Prayer wasn’t kept quiet. Everyone—the living, the dead, and the gods—heard what happened there. Now, Guerdon is the hotspot for power hungry politicians and religious leaders. Meanwhile, the Godswar serves as foreshadowing to what’s to come and that the events from the past are beginning to catch up to the present. If only the characters would pay more attention to the Godswar instead of their petty power struggles, then they would become aware of the real threat to Guerdon. The author’s method of storytelling reflects how easy it is to distract a community from what’s really going on.

In The Shadow Saint, the author focuses on people who are the victims of being used and abused by others. In reality, history and other genres of fiction, individuals are used as tools by other individuals and groups so that their goals can be achieved while leaving the victims behind to deal with the consequences. It is obvious the protagonists (and some of the other characters) had been taken advantage of by others. However, the author wants his readers to focus on how those victims overcome that treatment and the mess they find themselves in at the moment. Those characters make decisions based on their emotions and their desires. They have to decide on whether or not seeking retribution is the only option they have, or whether or not they should place emphasis on everything else that’s happening around them and do something about it.

The Shadow Saint is a story that splits its time between being a sequel to The Gutter Prayer and providing a separate narration through new characters, setting and worldbuilding. Fans of the first book—which was Hanrahan’s debut novel—will enjoy the pacing of the narrative and the throwback to previous characters while learning more about the setting and the disturbing and destructive history behind it. And, the buildup and the cliffhanger at the end will leave you salivating for book three!

The Shadow Saint is a sequel which triumphs on the writing and the story of its predecessor. Hanrahan delivers the same twisted elements found throughout the narrative while exceeding any expectations fans, readers and critics believed would happen to any and all of the characters. The story is broken and dangerous just like the characters, the gods and the magic in it. That’s what readers have come to expect from the author, and I cannot wait to be surprised again!

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