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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

“Shadow Magic” by Jaida Jones and Danielle Bennett (Reviewed by Liviu Suciu)

Official Jaida Jones Blog
Official Danielle Bennett Blog
Order "Shadow Magic" HERE(US) and HERE(Europe/Overseas)
Read FBC Review of "Havemercy" HERE

INTRODUCTION: The authors' debut, "Havemercy", introduced us to a wonderful world of magic and metal dragons with a story that ended quite conclusively while leaving a lot of room for more. "Shadow Magic" picks up where "Havemercy" ends, but it has completely new characters and a new setting so it can be read as a standalone.

This time we have magic and an oriental like society, with the defeated Ke-Han seen through the eyes of two Volstov diplomats coming to their enemies' devasted capital to negotiate a lasting peace, while a prince of the Ke-Han and his trusted retainer bring the perspective of the "Havemercy" "bogeymen", showing brilliantly how the notion of "hero" and "villain" essentially depend on perspective.

OVERVIEW: The generations long on and off war between Volstov and Ke-Han of which the dramatic last part has been chronicled in "Havemercy" from the Volstov perspective has just ended with the dramatic dragon attack on the capital of Ke-Han. The defeated emperor sued for peace and committed ritual suicide, while his older son Iseul assumed the throne. The delegation sent form Volstov to negotiate a lasting peace has just arrived but it is clear soon that the diplomats may take a long time to hammer an agreement.

The four narrators, all men as in Havemercy, are Volstovian diplomats Alcibiades, a gruff officer and Caius, a young spoiled aristocrat and Mamoru and Kouje the younger prince of Ke-Han and his personal retainer respectively
. Their destiny will intertwine in quite unexpected ways, while some of the "Havemercy" main characters have cameos later in the novel.

"Shadow Magic" stands at about 400 pages and it features a map of Volstov and Ke-Han with an ending that ties all its main threads together. I definitely want more books in this very entertaining milieu.

ANALYSIS: If you loved "Havemercy", you will love this one as I did both, if you disliked "Havemercy" for whatever reason I would suggest to try something else since I see no reason this one will change your opinion. If you are new to the authors, you can definitely start with "Shadow Magic" since the necessary background is introduced quickly, and the book has a completely different focus, with its own story only marginally related with the first novel.

In many ways "Shadow Magic" is a better written novel, much more balanced and the gambit of introducing new main charcters and the completely different Ke-Han setting worked extremely well for me. On the other hand the main characters of "Havemercy" were more vivid to some extent - and that is more due to the choices made as to their identities and role in the universe and story, so that is why overall I thought the novels comparable for me though this one is more technically accomplished.

But I like larger than life characters that take over a book and here Caius is flamboyant but hard to take seriosuly, Alcibiades is the typical farmer turned officer with his grufness, insecurity in aristocratic refined company and straight-out manners, while the Ke-Han duo, Mamoru the young sheltered prince, veteran of war but so naive as "real, day to day life" as it behooves someone kept at a distance from society due to his position and Kouje the loyal-at-all-cost retainer are again precisely what we expect however unusual is their path in the novel. That indeed will change all four and they grow on you, especially Mamoru and Alcibiades.

The sexual overtones of "Havemercy" are muted here and there is a lot of magic but no dragons, while the resemblance with Sarah Monette's work but less dark or explicit is still strong. The world building is just exquisite based on an oriental Chinese/Japanese mix and it is one of the major strengths of the novel - Ke-Han is another "fantasy" place you feel "real", not just squiggles on paper.

The ending is bit rushed, a lot happening fast and at once, but otherwise the novel is a pleasure to read, very entertaining and highly recommended


Sheila (bookjourney) said...

This looks really good. This genre is fairly new to me but what I have read so far I have liked. Great review.

Liviu said...

Thank you for your kind words; these two books (Havemercy and Shadow Magic) are very entertaining and relaxing novels and I am in for whatever this talented duo of authors is up to next...

Memory said...

I'm seriously considering getting this in hardcover - something I almost never do. I loved HAVEMERCY, which I read late last year, and I'm glad to hear that this one has a similar feel to it.


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