This week on Down the Stacks, we have a classic mix of Fantasy elements in Jon Sprunk’s Shadow’s Son.
Shadow’s Son takes place in a world perhaps not unlike our own around the early Dark Ages, except with drops of magic hidden in the shadows. A once-great empire has been reduced to a corrupt, church-run dictatorship, and the seeds of unrest among the general populace are starting to bloom. In this environment, Caim ekes out a living as an assassin, taking on assignments to remove problematic lords and other highborns and cautiously meeting with would-be revolutionary groups in pubs. Caim is a skilled killer in his own right, but he also has a magic talent of blending into the shadows, and he’s followed and occasionally assisted by Kit, a capricious spirit that only Caim can see and hear.
Following a job that didn’t go as cleanly as he wanted, Caim intends to take a few weeks off. When he goes to talk to his job mediator, however, the man begs Caim to take on one more job that another assassin just dropped. Caim reluctantly accepts, but when he arrives at the target’s home he discovers the man’s already dead and Caim has been set up to take the fall. He’s found first by Josephine, the man’s teenage daughter, and when it becomes evident that the church’s law enforcement is under orders to eliminate her as well, Caim abducts Josephine for her own safety and plunges himself into conspiracy that threatens both the church and the stability of the entire city.
Shadow’s Son doesn’t break any new ground. At its core, it’s a standard story about a killer with a noble heart and special powers who gets tangled up in world-changing politics because he decided to go outside the parameters of his job and save the girl, and has to confront his past as well as external enemies while untangling the mystery he got himself into. That said, Shadow’s Sun is a fun story to read. Jon Sprunk has real skill for writing interesting characters and scenes that draw you into the story. The characters play straight into the typical tropes for their roles in the story, but they play out those tropes with an earnestness that just manages to save them from being flat, cookie-cutter cliches.Shadow’s Son is the first in a series, and based on what this first book did, I think the rest of the series might be worth a look.