Book Review: Knight’s Shadow by Sebastien de Castell
A review copy of this book was provided to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Series: Book 2 of Greatcoats
Publisher: Jo Fletcher (UK: March 5, 2015)
Mogsy’s Rating: 4 of 5 stars
Traitor’s Blade was one of my favorite reads last year so I couldn’t wait to get my hands on this one. When my copy of Knight’s Shadow came I literally threw up my hands and yelled STOP EVERYTHING! My whole carefully planned reading schedule went flying out the window as I dove into this one straight away.
How wonderful it is to be back into this world once more, though Falcio and the gang aren’t exactly in good shape when we catch up with them again at the beginning of this novel. Events in the final showdown of Traitor’s Blade left Falcio weakened by a deadly poison which should have killed him, and it still might be killing him even now. The Tailor and her new Greatcoats have taken Aline, the king’s rightful heir, into the mountains to protect her from Trin’s armies and assassins.
It’s clear that the Greatcoats are going to need all the help they can get to put a thirteen-year-old girl on the throne, so Falcio and his companions are soon sent off to negotiate an alliance with Duke Isault. However, right before a treaty can be finalized, the Duke and his entire family are brutally murdered, setting our heroes on a path to find the killer and uncover a dangerous conspiracy threatening to tear apart the country.
Once again I’m amazed at the seamless way Sebastien de Castell manages to combine action and humor. This sequel is as much fun as the first book, continuing in a similar vein with its snappy narrative style and pacing. I also can’t help but feel the book is aptly titled though, because the entire story also feels shrouded in a slightly darker tone. Time and time again, Falcio, Kest and Brasti are pushed to their limits, forced to go through many situations that will test their loyalties and resolve. I found Knight’s Shadow wildly entertaining, but it’s important to note that the bleaker, grimmer parts also have their role in shaping the characters through difficulty and hardship.
This book will really stress the bonds between our mighty trio. You’ll see Falcio react with more vehemence against those who threaten his friends. You’ll see the efficient and methodical Kest lose control. You’ll see Brasti question his own place in the order and challenge Falcio’s authority. We spent the first book getting to know these characters and De Castell continues to build upon them by putting the group through new situations, developing those fascinating relationship dynamics. He also makes things more interesting by giving Valiana a much bigger role, as well as introducing the vicious and cynical Darriana.
Kest, Brasti, Valiana and Darri all react to Falcio in their various ways, but they share a common goal in bringing our protagonist back down to earth when he gets too lost in himself, or too lost in the idolatry of his dead king. I’ve got to admit, sometimes Falcio does need that reality check.
Despite being a much longer book than its predecessor, the story in Knight’s Shadow feels more driven, streamlined and less meandering, featuring less flashbacks and asides. On the other hand, Falcio and his friends had to fall into several success-and-setback cycles before the story hits its stride and takes off running. The beginning felt slower to me for this reason, and I also found the book a lot more emotionally draining than Traitor’s Blade. Our poor Greatcoats never seem to catch a break!
I think I still liked the first book more, just slightly. Traitor’s Blade had a few more original moments, dazzling me with concepts like conversations held by swordfight. It also had more fantasy/magical elements, like fey horses. Knight’s Shadow had a great story but it was also very ambitious with its twists and turns, leading to some inconsistencies, and for all that I still predicted the ending. But these minor points notwithstanding, I had an amazing time with this book. Greatcoats is now up there on my list of favorite fantasy series, and I never miss a chance to recommend it to my fellow readers and friends. I’m sure they’re so sick of hearing me gush about these books by now but I don’t care! I can’t wait to see what De Castell has in store for us next in book three, Tyrant’s Throne.
Other reviews in this series:
Traitor’s Blade (Book 1)