Shadow's Son

When I originally read the blurb of this novel, Shadow's Son was immediately relegated to the piles of books I donate to local libraries. Indeed, it felt as though I had read such books a thousand times. But when Adam and Ken both came up with positive reviews, I retrieved it and decided to bring it along with me on vacation.

Here's the blurb:

In the holy city of Othir, treachery and corruption lurk at the end of every street, just the place for a freelance assassin with no loyalties and few scruples.

Caim makes his living on the edge of a blade, but when a routine job goes south, he is thrust into the middle of an insidious plot. Pitted against crooked lawmen, rival killers, and sorcery from the Other Side, his only allies are Josephine, the socialite daughter of his last victim, and Kit, a guardian spirit no one else can see. But in this fight for his life, Caim only trusts his knives and his instincts, but they won't be enough when his quest for justice leads him from Othir's hazardous back alleys to its shining corridors of power. To unmask a conspiracy at the heart of the empire, he must claim his birthright as the Shadow's Son...

Not surprisingly, based on the cover blurb we quickly realize that Sprunk doesn't bring anything new to the table. Indeed, there is nothing very original associated with this tale, and it is predictable to boot. Yet the quality of the narrative's execution turns Shadow's Son into a very entertaining read.

The traditional tropes are all present, but somehow it doesn't take too much away from the overall story. Thanks to Jon Sprunk's writing style, a fast-paced yet evocative narrative that keeps you turning those pages, even though the story is clichéd somehow you keep going. Sure, if I were to break the plot down some of you would feel the need to roll your eyes. We have the antihero assassin who doesn't like killing. The damsel in distress who's an annoying brat and only seems good enough to get herself kidnapped time and again. A main protagonist of unknown parentage with strange powers. Secret societies and a corrupted church. Yada yada yada. . .

But like a talented fusion cuisine chef, Sprunk manages to take all those beaten to death ingredients, mix them up, and come up with a compelling recipe. Mind you, Shadow's Son will not change your life. But if you are looking for an action-packed and entertaining fantasy read to bring along with you on vacation, then this just might be what the doctor ordered.

The worldbuilding is the habitual medieval European setting. Nothing special in and of itself, yet Sprunk is nevertheless able to create an imagery that makes Othir come to life. His economical narrative is not bogged down by info dumps, and he manages to convey more in a few sentences than many authors do with a few paragraphs.

Shadow's Son is pretty much a self-contained story, which I reckon is why the novel is so short. Still, we catch a few glimpses of a wider story arc, something that promises to be vaster in depth and scope. I can only hope that the forthcoming sequels will tell us more about the Lords of Shadow, the war in the north, the rise of the Church, etc.

The characterization is at times well-done, but there are quite a few occasions when I couldn't help but grit my teeth in frustration. There are a couple of scenes, especially those involving Josephine, that will get on your nerves. In addition, there were quite a few instances when things felt way too contrived to be realistic. But overall, the plot moves along at a crisp pace. Caim's characterization is also uneven from time to time. Brilliant in some portions of the tale, but a bit corny when the inevitable love story unfolds. The supporting cast, however, is made up of mostly clichéd and somewhat forgettable characters. With the exception of Kit, a faerie spirit that is Caim's only companion.

With this being as assassin's story, as a matter of course there are a lot of battle scenes. But unlike R. A. Salvatore, whose books are filled with choregraphed fights, Sprung is a good storyteller. And other than the final battle scene, I never felt that the action was getting in the way of the story.

The ending, sadly, is a bit predictable and corny. But by this point, the rousing tale has kept you entertained enough that it doesn't matter a whole lot. It will be interesting to see if Jon Sprunk will be able to maintain this level of excitement while using the genre's most basic and overdone tropes in the coming sequels.

Shadow's Son may not be the most original fantasy work out there, yet it is an action-packed and fun read. I'd compare it to one of Hollywood's huge summer blockbuster. They never win any Oscars, but they scratch that itch when you need to get your fix.

Looking for something light yet compelling to bring along on vacation? Jon Sprunk's Shadow's Son should do the trick!

The final verdict: 7.25/10

For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

4 commentaires:

Simeon said...

Exactly what I thought of the book :)

I could've survived without the scene with the cottage...

Brett said...

But unlike R. A. Salvatore, whose books are filled with choregraphed fights, Sprung is a good storyteller.

That's a good comment. I was thinking something similar after I finished reading it - "it's like a Salvatore novel, only better executed".

One other thought I had on the novel was that this is close to the boundary between "adult" fantasy and "young adult" stuff. Cut out one or two scenes, and Sprunk probably could have advertised this as a novel for young adults as well.

Anonymous said...

now this is rare: pat mentions R.A salvatore without talking about YA as well. speaking of that...

wise bass: really? sure the protagonist is 25 and the girl (not kit) is 17. but i dont this can pass as YA. id say its closer to brent weeks then say garth nix. but still, there is no denying it: the book is FUCKING AWESOME.

Anonymous said...

i thought the book sucked.