About the Book
Tristia is a nation overcome by intrigue and corruption. The idealistic young King Paelis is dead and the Greatcoats – legendary travelling magistrates who brought justice to the Kingdom – have been branded as traitors. But just before his head was impaled on a spike, the King swore each of his hundred and forty-four Greatcoats to a different mission.
Falcio Val Mond, First Cantor, with the help of fellow Greatcoats Kest and Brasti, has completed his King’s final task: he has found his Charoites – well, one at least, and she was not quite what they expected. Now they must protect the girl from the many who would see her dead, and place her on the throne of a lawless kingdom. That would be simple enough, if it weren’t for the Daishini, an equally legendary band of assassins, getting in their way, not to forget the Dukes who are determined to hold on to their fractured Kingdoms, or the fact that the heir to the throne is only thirteen years old. Oh, and the poison that is slowly killing Falcio.
That’s not even mentioning the Greatcoat’s Lament.
This book was sent for me to review by the publisher.
I was a huge fan of Traitor’s Blade, so when Jo Fletcher Books contacted me about reading and reviewing Knight’s Shadow, I jumped on it. de Castell somehow managed to mix epic fantasy with the fun and enthusiasm of The Three Musketeers perfectly. I was really excited to see what was going to happen next.
Things have changed quite a bit since the last book. While the main characters still retain their humor, there is a definite darkness that hangs over the book from the first page. Falcio is dealing with something that serves as a sort of ticking time bomb, making all of his actions and all of the consequences matter so much more than they otherwise would. Kest is dealing with a curse that is turning into something that is a bit more than he expected it to be. Brasti is the sort of emotional pendulum in all of this. Into this we add a few more essential characters, and a plot that has expanded and become more complex in surprising ways.
Falcio, despite his struggles (which I really don’t want to go into in detail due to spoilers) has a lot on his plate. He needs to put the heir on the throne, keep said heir safe, build support for said heir, and defeat an army, all while keeping himself alive as long as possible. We also meet the Tailor, a character who has just as much, if not more pull and influence than Falcio. The two have an interesting relationship as they maneuver to set the stage for their own revolution. Falcio’s ability to sense what needs to be done, making him seem a bit too good to be true, is balanced nicely by the Tailor, who isn’t afraid to put him in his place and think of better ideas.
A few female Greatcoats were also introduced to the plot, and though these two are sort of important minor characters, they quickly became some of my favorite in the book, adding levity to dark and dismal situations. Furthermore, they were completely unafraid to put the men in their place, and it was quite entertaining to see how the group of three changed and transformed into a group of five, and how the women added so much not only to the group, but to the book as a whole. They were a fantastic balancing factor to the novel that lacked some of that balance in the previous book.
Knight’s Shadow is quite a bit darker, and longer, than the previous novel. It is also quite a bit more intricate, and has quite a bit more plot in it. Rather than three men on a quest, now it’s a bunch of people against the world. The land of Tristia is falling apart, and Falcio and crew show readers a lot of just how it has fallen apart, and how it is fraying, in their travels. The author did a wonderful job showing readers more of the world, and more of its intricacies in very memorable ways. None of the world building was wasted, and in fact most of it seemed to work into the plot perfectly.
In a lot of ways Knight’s Shadow is a lot more graceful than its predecessor. There is more artistry to how the story is told. Rather than hitting readers over the head with details and plot points, de Castell just lets it flow. Though the middle does lag a bit, and some of the scenes are far more graphic than readers might expect, there is a lot less stress put on certain parts of the book and certain points of character development that made this easier to read, and a lot easier to enjoy. Furthermore, everyone had a direction and an end goal in sight. While they might get derailed along the way, that end goal and those various directions helped keep the book focused and that focus kept it interesting.
The ending was a slam-dunk, in my humble opinion, tying up just enough to satisfy readers, while keeping it open for the next book in the series, which I predict will take off with quite a roar. In fact, the ending impressed me so much I am absolutely itching to read the next book in the series. It was quite impressive how the book managed to end with equal parts of hope and despair. In fact, that is the tone for the book as a whole – equal parts hope and despair.
Knight’s Shadow is full of edge-of-your-seat action, plenty of tension, surprising twists and turns, and deft world building, a vast and surprisingly intricate plot and an ending you won’t forget. Yes, the middle does feel a little slow, and there are some parts of the book that are shockingly dark, but this is one hell of an installment to a series that I loved from the first page, and love even more now. I cannot wait for the next book.