David has taken the character of Waylander and given it a depth that we’ve never seen before. The emotional complexity in this book is far greater than anything David has achieved before, although we did get a glimpse at this in Midnight Falcon. The book contains some old favourites, and a small number of new and excellent personalities. I feel that David has succeeded in giving us just the right number of players in the plot, whereas in Sword in the Storm and Midnight Falcon, there were a lot more people (or at least, it felt like there were). In Hero in the Shadows we get a small but superb supporting cast. You will love Yu Yu – I promise.
The mix of emotion is well balanced, with humour offsetting the darker moments, and some scenes that will rip the heart from your chest and leave you gasping. Well, they did me anyway. Waylander is everything we’ve come to love, deadly, swift and merciless, but expect to see something new from him as well. The story is pretty normal fare, Waylander must save the world from an ancient and all-encompassing evil, aided by the best swordsman the Chiatze people have to offer, and by a ditch digger. A legendary ditch digger no less.
However, I don’t read David’s work to analyse every plot twist, I read his work because it’s moving, emotional, gritty and some of the best storytelling ever written. David manages
to look at many of his favourite themes, honour, belief, the nature of good and evil, age, remorse, and yet once again, gives us something new for each of them, and expands some of them. We see how belief can sometimes blind and lack of it can sometimes free the soul.
Oh, it doesn’t have any sieges in it.
This book also hints at something which has been present in some of David’s books before – that perhaps all of his stories are interlinked, taking part on a tapestry of a multidimensional universe. There is also an interesting, but short comment, on the reason why David’s heroes are heroes. Hero in the Shadows won’t disappoint anyone who reads it for those reasons. I can’t praise it highly enough.
(This review was written not long after it was published in 2000, for the original Gemmell Mania website)