Shadow’s Lure (Shadow Saga #2), by Jon Sprunk

“With a last glower, she vanished. No sparkles, no glitter. Out in the gathering darkness, an owl hooted. The air seemed colder when she was gone. What was he trying to prove? That he didn’t need anyone?”

  • TITLE: Shadow’s Lure
  • AUTHOR: Jon Sprunk
  • RELEASE DATE: 21st July 2011 (UK)
  • PUBLISHER: Gollancz

Shadow’s Lure, sequel to Shadow’s Son and the middle book in Jon’s Sprunk’s first trilogy, is a recent release that I’ve been anticipating for some time—in fact, since I finished Shadow’s Son just after New Year. I was expecting an exciting, bloody journey as Caim left the relative safety of Othir to venture north, seeking answers regarding his past and the murder of his father.

Having left, Caim finds himself trudging farther into the frozen, winter-gripped lands north of Othir, and into deep trouble. Following his growth in power—his ability to call, wield and summon the Shadows—Caim finds the north gripped by more than just the winter. A darkness Caim senses in every fibre of his being runs beneath the hum of life through all of Eregoth, a darkness that thrums with dark power like a black blood beneath the tangible realm. Though he doesn’t know why, he can’t bury the notion that the darkness’ origin lies in the Shadowlands, and since his encounter with Levictus—responsible for his father’s death, yet in the employ of forces darker than the priest, Vassili—he is all the more certain that his answers are at the heart of this changed land that was once his home. With Kit at his side—but for how long? Troubled by the ‘barrier’ she spoke of during his final encounters with Ral and Levictus, a barrier that sought to keep them apart—Caim can only venture deeper into the war-torn Eregoth, tiptoeing around the carnage left in the midst of odd clan-wars where there appears to be only one antagonising force.

Back in Othir, we return to another familiar face: Josey. With Hubert at her side—Vassili’s son—now her lord chancellor, we are invited to watch Josey take her first steps as the empress of Nimea—and watch her threaten to buckle under all the new pressures of her new office. However, Josey is a strong girl, as she’s proved before at Caim’s side, and though her heart aches for the assassin she let go, with a select shield of friends and new common-goal acquaintances, Josey throws herself into repairing her realm, beginning with the heart of the problem—the True Church. The Prelate’s poison threatens her reign before it has even begun, with the people too-eager to listen to the warped lies about the “Usurper Whore”.

With a dangerous set of revolutionary ideas, bent on healing the realm she wishes to love and serve so dearly, Josey embarks on a complicated agenda for widespread peace, despite the protests of the True Church and its followers, claiming the holy wars they waged—though costly in coin and blood—must not be ceased, lest the heathens remain unenlightened. In addition, it’s only a matter of time before Josey is presented with the idea of making heirs, but with no word from Caim in the north, and her heart set and aching, Josey’s as like to entertain the idea as she is to bow to the Prelate.

Meanwhile, an enemy beyond imagining appears to be the rider at the reigns of the warring in the north, with the warlord merely being ridden and pulled into whichever direction his mistress deigns. As dark as the night and crueller than the bite of ice, the new darkness spreading throughout Eregoth—flanked by her minion, including a giant of a warrior clad in dread black plate, and subservient herself to her own master—little does Caim know that he’s about to get himself neck-deep in a new war that scarcely even feels like his own—until secrets are revealed and truths are uncovered that will shake Caim to the very foundations of his being. And there’s the matter of his mother—she was taken that night, does she still live—and his father’s sword, which hums and resonates in time with the darkness.

Caim goes north seeking answers—and he might just find them.

Excellently written, and brimming with dark imagination, monstrous creativity and a deftness for combat, Shadow’s Lure picks up where Shadow’s Son left off and sweeps the reader away on a dark and gritty adventure, where it’s not just the cold that will test a man’s mettle. Displaying a flair for action and pulse-quickening fight-scenes, Sprunk’s second novel is an excellent sword and sorcery yarn that will have you reading for your rapiers and buckling your swash as you follow Caim into the snow-steeped new lands of Eregoth.

The speed and deftness of Caim’s story is countered by the intrigue of Josey’s story, and both POVs are as exciting as one another—never is the reader left longing to return to one over the other. Both characters are excellently portrayed, and we see both of them grow immensely throughout the novel—Josey hardens, whilst Caim yields to his “better nature”, bringing them both closer to one another despite the yawning distance between them.

Quick-pacing and an intriguing plot drive the story forward, toward an exhilarating epic showdown that sets up the story to lead seamlessly into the final book, Shadow’s Master. A brilliantly presented sword and sorcery yarn, laced with romance, humanity, strength and sacrifice, Shadow’s Lure doesn’t fall into the usual trap of “middle novels” in that the excitement dips after the first novel, before returning in the last. Instead, this middle novel is a sheer pleasure to read, and with adventure, revenge and truth at the heart of the story, it becomes a page-turner that will keep you reading through the night.

A wonderful novel and a pleasure to read.

5/5

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