Shadow’s Master, by Jon Sprunk (The Shadow Saga #3)

  • TITLE: Shadow’s Master (The Shadow Saga #3)
  • AUTHOR: Jon Sprunk
  • PUBLISHER: Pyr Books (US) Gollancz (UK)
  • RELEASE DATE: 21st June 2012 (UK, as cited by Amazon.co.uk) 

I couldn’t wait for the UK copy of this, so, I purchased the US edition instead. As I’m an avid cover-collector, I intend to complete my hardback collection and purchase the UK hardback when it releases, as well.

As the final book in the Shadow Saga, Jon Sprunk had to pull out something pretty special to top the first two books. In the end, he did not disappoint. In fact, Shadow’s Master is possibly the best book of the trilogy, with the first book coming in as a close second. Shadow’s Master has everything any modern Sword and Sorcery yarn should have—action, adventure, magic and urgency—with the added bonus of romance and war.

At the end of Shadow’s Lure Caim was headed North in search of revenge and truth. With a handful of Eregoths to pad out his team, and having left Keegan in charge of events in his home country—the place from which his mother was taken and his father killed—Caim travels endlessly towards the vacant Northlands, and towards the deep sensation tugging at him, urging him towards what he knows deep down to be his heritage.

Back in Othir, Hubert deals with the day-to-day business of the realm, whilst Empress Josephine—Josey—is following in Caim’s footsteps, in search of him, though she uses a multitude of (however legitimate) reason to justify this. Whilst trying to find Caim, and tell him the news she’s been carrying since he left, Josey discovers just how fragile the lives of her people outside of the capital city are, and how eagerly the Eregoths want to stand on their own feet. She helps build in the countryside, brings medicine and compassion, and finds a new determination within herself to become a good empress.

Caim, on the other hand, finds little but strife on his journey north, and the ever nagging impression that something is wrong with him. He feels weaker, sicker, the more they travel, and even the shadows are quiet and do not answer his call, even when he needs them the most. And then after something snaps inside, and he kills in a way he’s not done since he left his old profession, he feels something stir inside him that makes all the bad dissolve—but can he handle the truth of his heritage and the truth of his blood?

Meanwhile, Kit realises that as she is, she and Caim will never be together, regardless of how much he admits he loves her. They cannot touch, cannot kiss, cannot… anything. In lieu of slowly watching Caim gravitate away from her, and feel her own heart breaking, she takes it upon herself to find a solution that they will both be amenable to.

Shadow’s Master is a quest novel: Caim is heading to the fabled Erebus to confront his past; Josey is seeking Caim, but moreover, she’s seeking herself. As the last novel in a trilogy, it might have been difficult to keep the pace and to produce a good, solid example of a quest novel, but Sprunk is a true master of his art and the novel is an outright success. It reads like a quest novel, but it also reads—successfully—like the final novel of a trilogy. Loose ends are tied together, questions are answered, but new plot points are introduced, and where they are not wrapped up before the end of the book, they are left hanging and their eventual outcomes implied or left to the imagination of the reader. Everything is in such a perfect balance, it’s as though Sprunk has been writing, and finishing trilogies for years.

The pacing is utterly excellent and you feel the relentless trudge northwards, without anything dragging and without even a patch of dull, or tired prose. Sprunk is an excellent storyteller, weaving a fantastic trilogy that captures the imagination, reignites the love of classic Sword and Sorcery styling, without losing the neo-classical, modern verve that readers in the genre have come to expect from newer writers.

As a novel, Shadow’s Master is delighting, with something not often found in fantasy—a happy ending. As the final dot on the page of a trilogy, Shadow’s Master is a damn good end to one of the best series I’ve read in recent years. It doesn’t try too hard to be what it’s not; rather, it effortlessly excels at what it is.

Utterly splendid.

I look forwards to more of Sprunk’s work in the future.

5/5

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