Caim is a killer for hire and a troubled young man in a city which is the mirror image of his own character. Othir is a seething den of conspiracy, deceit and poverty covered with a veneer of religion, order and riches. With few friends and a heart full of revenge, Caim believes he is killing those who deserve to be dead, and earning money on the side. Then, when a short notice job goes wrong, he begins to suspect he’s at the centre of something greater and deadlier than he could have imagined. His list of friends grows shorter, as the roster of enemies increases.
Shadow’s Son is a reasonably short, well paced novel. Set almost entirely within the city of Othir, it provides a somewhat claustrophobic setting in which to play out the drama of Caim’s discoveries. Caim is an interesting character, and he is given a chance to grow a little. However, he isn’t as believable as he needs to be to carry the majority of the story. Life threatening wounds are too easily shrugged off, and there are times when he behaves in a way which is at odds with his apparent skill.
The setting appears to be loosely based on Europe in the 12th century. The underlying plot is engaging, and I was interested enough to keep turning the pages to find out what the end game was, finishing the book in one sitting. The prose is easy to read, although one or two phrases really caused me to pause, but that’s a minor stylistic issue. The story has little humour and the interplay between the characters is mostly serious, with only one or two light hearted moments. Along with the claustrophobic setting this combination gives the world a bleak and foreboding feeling.
The significant cast is small for which I’m grateful, and it fit well within the scope of the story. Along with Caim we have three contenders for the enemy, a sorcerer, an assassin and a priest; working with Caim we have the damsel in distress, Josephine.
It’s easy to categorise the enemy and the primary female character in that way since they’re pretty much standard tropes in fantasy literature. The sorcerer is dark, mysterious and evil. The assassin is cocky, arrogant and skilled (but not as skilled as he thinks), and the priest is devious and deeply involved in conspiracy and deceit. The damsel is gorgeous and soft on the outside with an inner iron core of resolve. Maybe I’m being a little unfair, but I do think the story deserved a richer cast with fewer clichéd characteristics.
The botched assassination and the arrival of Josephine change Caim’s life for ever – and set him on a path of discovery. Readers of fantasy literature will remain unsurprised at the various revelations that are presented, but they are presented well, and despite the familiarity they are still worth the effort.
Shadow’s Son is an interesting read with an engaging plot that is ultimately let down by a lack of credibility in the protagonist, and a reliance on too many common fantasy tropes.