This will be the first in a series of regular reviews that I hope to sprinkle amidst the usual updates. Why? Well first off, I like making it known when books are good (or bad, or great!) and by the end I think it’ll be a collection of reviews that will show off where perhaps some of my influences come from. Every single book I ever read influences me in some way; whether through its writing style, character development or simply tropes and techniques, I take in everything.
From the beginning I warmed to Caim. What can I say? I detest whiter than white protagonists whose back-stories are cleaner than a nun’s unmentionables. Caim is the kind of hero I like: he’s clever, quick rather than strong, and pushed forwards by a mysterious past. Moreover, he’s a little dark. Sure, he’s an assassin, but he’s as nice a man as you’ll find in his profession, and that’s saying something.
Early into the book we meet Kit. Seconds after meeting her, I loved her. A stunning, strange girl, Kit is witty, clever and the way in which she and Caim interact brings their relationship to life. You can almost feel Caim’s ache for her at times, just as strongly as you can sense his desire to wring her neck. Their relationship is one of my favourite parts of the book, and I look forwards to more of it throughout the second.
Purely because it was set in a city it brought images of both Mark Charan Newton’s Nights of Villjamur and Scott Lynch’s The Lies of Locke Lamora to mind. Though whilst you’re not taken to the chilly winter streets where bistros’ steamed windows overlook the trodden cobbles and the undeniable sense of a metropolitan community permeates the air, or the lavish Italianesque streets enhanced by ancient towers and alchemical lamps, traversed by the dandy, the rich and the thieving, the city is alive nonetheless.
In fact, the setting is so rich that you’re treated to almost a guided tour of the city as Caim treads its many paths, streets and obviously, dark, dangerous alleyways. The city is ruled by the True Church, which essentially is the Catholic church. This allegory immediately piqued my interest, as I gladly warm to any setting where the church and monotheism are in the firing line. This further compounded the notion that this city was European in appearance and feel, and the same Italian verve from The Lies of Locke Lamora remained.
Caim boasts a colourful cast to support him. A nobleman’s daughter who bears a secret she’s unaware of, but that could tear apart the city from its heart. A dandy young activist whose father perches at the very top of the establishment he strives against. An ambitious assassin whose loyalties are as fluid as the silk with which he adorns his apartments. Finally, a dark and dangerous pair; a powerful, influential priest and his dark sorcerer who, whilst he might lurk in the shadows he appears clad in, is not as easy to tame as his master might assume.
Essentially the book begins with little plot in a sense; only Caim and his occupation, and Caim with a job to do. As the blurb promises, Caim soon is pulled into a deeper plot—a plot against him—and this is when the story heats up. Other books that start with little plot on the table upfront can be a little difficult to really get into, but that wasn’t the case at all with Shadow’s Son. Quite the contrary, actually. Caim and Kit make for such a dynamic and intriguing pair that their escapades are exciting enough to hook and reel the reader in until the big wheels start to turn.
And boy do those wheels turn.
Shadow’s Son not only presents Caim as an assassin with a difference—namely, withpowers—but also reaches far, far higher than the streets of Othir from which he takes his living, suete knives in hand. The plot reaches the lofty heights of the palace, with Caim struggling to stay one step ahead of enemies who have too much to lose to merely back down. Caim the Knife soon finds himself fighting battles that his knives alone can’t match, and that he must rely on the one thing he’s been trying to deny since he can remember: the shadows.
Good pacing, gripping action and sublime duelling scenes make this story a winner. Packed with dark sorcery and darker secrets, romance and suspense, all topped off with the proverbial cherry that is Sprunk’s excellent writing, Shadow’s Son was exactly everything it promised to be.