Tuesday, 3 October 2017



Book Title: Shadowblack
Author: Sebastian de Castell
Series: Spellslinger #2
Date Started: September 29th 2017
Date Completed: October 3rd 2017
Genres: Fantasy, Adventure
Quality Rating: Three Stars
Enjoyment Rating: Four Star
Final Rating: Three stars

◆ Thanks to NetGalley for this ebook for review ◆

I really enjoyed the first book in this series and was so excited about where Kellen went, so when I saw the second one listed on NetGalley it took me under three seconds to request it. Lo and behold, I read it in under five days during the chaos that is university and had great fun doing so.

Back when I read Spellslinger, what grabbed me was the quick-witted dialogue and the humour running throughout the story and, of course, Kellen as our protagonist. Shadowblack still had that humour, but it wasn't quite present. This book felt more serious, but not necessarily darker. I think there was a lot of world building around Kellen and the Jan'Tep people that made the stakes higher before things kicked off in the last book, and events were a little more rushed here. I would've liked more of a balance between that silver-tongue dialogue and the mystery-style plot.

What sets this series out is its western genre. Especially for an audience of young adults, who don't often get that cultural experience of the genre (both in books and things like film and television), I think it's something different straight off the cuff. Its combination with high fantasy is a really nice fit as well, even though I would never have thought it would work.

While I disagree, I've seen it compared to Firefly. A big part of this, I'm sure, is to do with the clearly episodic structure of the series. Even two books in it's easy to see that it would make a great TV show because it already feels set up as a long-form story that has individual plots broken into it. We have the same characters and basic magic system, but with each book we're been taken out into this world and shown a different society. It's really good for building the feeling that Kellen's universe is expansive because we're getting to explore it with him. There's also something to say about the fact each book ties up its own plot. I feel like I could leave the series anytime I wanted, and that freedom - at a time where book series' are so confining and it feels like a marketing ploy half the time - makes me want to keep reading. Because the author has given me the freedom to choose, as opposed to trying to manipulate me into half finishing a story in one book.

The one significant issue I have with this series is its female characters. They're not terrible, but I'm unconvinced by them. I feel like de Castell is trying to make diverse and capable women, but falling short in a couple of fundamental ways. The positions he puts them in for one; the use of masculine characteristics to imply they're strong; the fact that we have yet to meet a young woman who doesn't fall in love with Kellen (past his sister, but that doesn't count). I remember having the same uncertainty in Spellslinger and I'm sad that that concern has come up again.

Although I was excited to see where this series went, I didn't enjoy Shadowblack quite as much as Spellslinger. I think there was more focus on the mystery than the characters and culture - which was what I really liked about the first book. Having said that, I still read it for a couple of hours at a time because I was enjoying it so much. Hopefully, in the future we'll go back to exploring the people and their societies over the plot.

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