With a few notable exceptions, I haven’t read much fantasy for a while. I was actually starting to wonder if I had lost my love for the genre as nothing seemed to peak my interest in the way it used to. Simon and Schuster UK kindly sent me an advance review copy of a book they strongly believed in and aside from the fact it was originally written in russian and translated into english, it looked like just the kind of formulaic fantasy that had me so out of sorts.
Shadow Harold, master thief and appropriator of coveted items is happy to let the world go on around him. The world however has different ideas. The Nameless One is stirring after centuries of peace, calling an immense army of dreadful creatures to his side. His goal is to strike at the heart of Siala, the great city of Avendoom. Harold’s unique talents are needed to gain access to the one thing that can save Siala and while it’s a mission of great urgency and danger, once commissioned, Harold is oath bound to see it through. Even at the cost of his own life.
Having just finished Shadow Prowler, I am quite astonished. It reminded me of the old favourites that I still have and re-read, of a few authors I love that are a cut above the rest and most importantly, why I fell in love with fantasy in the first place.
Right from the first few pages, I liked the main character Harold. He’s an intelligent and witty reluctant hero, with a knack for getting out of a tight spot. Getting used to a new author’s ‘voice’ can be tough and Harold is what made it a smooth transition and kept me reading until I was caught up in the story.
The world Pehov has built for this series is rich in detail and character and I love the way he has turned around what I would say are usually standard facets of a fantasy book and used them to his own end.
As the story progressed and new characters were introduced, I found them just as well rounded and interesting as Harold, even those that that were only present for a brief time. A few even tugged at my heart though their time in the book was short.
The pace was really good, no sudden stop/starts or breakneck rush but a smooth movement through the excellent storyline firing up with some great action scenes and then returning to that flow when it was time.
Magic is present, used in daily life and there are different forms of it, used by different races. I found that interesting and thought it also showed just how much enthusiasm and work Alexey Pehov put into the world he created.
I have to touch on the translation from Russian by Andrew Bromfield. I think it has been so skillfully done that I wouldn’t have been able to tell that it wasn’t first written in English. I would love to know how the two versions compare and have to wonder if it was even more enjoyable in its native tongue.
I enjoyed this book a huge amount and can’t wait to read the second in the series to find out how Harold and his companions are faring!