In the last few years, coming with a wave of gritty novels, came another genre of fantasy, the assassins genre. I have to admit being very interested and excited about that, seeing how I love movies and stories of that sort. However, and strangely enough I only picked one book of the genre recently. I guess I was kind of afraid I would find in a endless line of boring characters that are impossibly evil or always questioning themselves (which was a concern that was later confirmed by many reviews of different series). I mean if you’re an assassin, you probably don’t really care about what you do and how you do it. In the end a character that’s always questioning the meanings of his craft just looks like the writer is questioning his reason for taking on his story, and it annoys me mightily.
So it was with some reserves that I started Shadow’s Son by Jon Sprunk. But I have to say that the cover and the title did help in the choosing of this book to be my first of the assassin’s genre. This one had a different feeling about it, even if the difference was very small. And I was in for a surprise.
Caim is a young assassin living in the dangerous city of Othir, where corruption runs wild and assassin’s can make a lot of money. There are a lot of contracts and Caim is quite happy to oblige. Why? Because he’s good at what he does. But when a job turned sour sends him in an unwanted direction with the daughter of a rich upper city man and a dangerous mystery, he has to make compromises he never expected himself to do.
Shadow’s Son is a small book, very small, only about 300 pages. But every single of these pages are used efficiently to weave a story that is fast and tremendously fun. The story makes amend of it’s predictability and lack of complexity by putting us in the shoes of a cast of characters that feel genuine, honest and full of gumption. The relationship between them is enjoyable and everything flows without a hitch. While the dialogues are easy, they never feel too boring or lazy and make the story move flawlessly.
Nothing is ever perfect and I have to say that the length of the book is cause for sacrifices that could have made the story a bit more interesting. Mainly, the lack of proper world-building is the biggest problem and we end up with the some of the most common stereotypes of fantasy, namely a European similar world resembling our own a bit too much with its ex-roman style empire and a church that is so exactly like that catholic church that it is frustrating and feels simply lazy, the typical anti-hero, the young rich spoiled girl but with great strength of character.
The use of the Church as the cause for grief in the world is just a boring excuse to bash on religion again and the people at its head are corrupted to the bones and completely selfish.
But the author makes us forget all of that by making us move through the story fast enough to actually find great enjoyment and satisfaction in the first book of his series. Shadow’s Son is your typical dark fantasy, but made with talent and modesty, with no pretension or illusion of grandeur. If you are looking for a quick read between to chunky books, give it a try, I’m sure you will find some satisfaction in it.