Caim is an assassin with an almost supernatural ability to get the job done. Along with Kit, his childhood friend and companion, who might not be real, he has killed his way through all sections of society.
The first sign that something has gone wrong with his latest job is the large hole where the targets heart should be. The sound of the city guards’ feet approaching tell him that he has been set-up. He must escape and survive long enough to ask the intended target’s now unconscious daughter what is going on.
Allied against them is an army lead by an ambitious magic user who has made a deal with evil forces for power. It becomes clear that these evil forces are making a bid to take over the city of Othir and only Caim and a ragtag group of wannabe revolutionaries can stop them.
Assassins seem to be in vogue at the moment. There are definite trends in fantasy fiction and orphans with manifest destinies are taking over from mismatched groups of warriors on a quest.
It is a brave author who rattles the tree of conventions and cliché in the hope of a juicy apple falling down. Thankfully, here the apple which falls is indeed shiny and juicy.
Jon Sprunk writes ‘Shadow’s Son’, a story in which there are two orphans with two very different manifest destinies. Caim has to come to terms with his origins and Josephine must deal with the death of her father and accept her nobility. By having the story take simultaneously a path through reality and magic and high and low society, Sprunk is able to write a full and satisfying story.
The narrative speeds like a well-thrown knife and the writing is sharp and pointed. The characters are a nice mix of good and bad. We empathise with Caim even though when we first meet him he is carving his way through society in a very literal way. The forces of evil are clearly evil but they are attempting to overthrow a corrupt and brutal system which has produced many dangerous characters. Caim himself is a product of this system and owes the death of his parents to its holy jihad.
The book’s ending comes around all too quickly. A sure sign of a cracking good read.
This is the first book in a series and a mighty debut novel. If the pace continues through the next novels in the series, Sprunk will have laid the foundations to a soaring career. This book is worth a look if you are a fan of the genre but also if you enjoy fast-paced action adventure. I anticipate the next book, ‘Shadow’s Lure’, greatly.
(pub: Gollancz. 281 page enlarged paperback. Price: £12.99 (UK only). ISBN: 978-0-575-0960-1
pub: Pyr/Prometheus Books. 278 page enlarged paperback. Price: $16.00 (US). ISBN: 978-1-61614-201-8)