The Shadow War by Stephanie Flint

The Shadow War by Stephanie FlintFlint expands her fantasy world without bogging down the action, creating an engaging tale of magical urban warfare that isn’t merely combat for the sake of it.

This book is the second volume in The Wishing Blade series. Possible spoilers ahead.

Unable to defend their home city, Toranih, Daernen, and Siklana race ahead of the army of Shadows in the hope of warning the neighbouring city of the threat. Separated from her companions almost as soon as she walks through the gates, Toranih is captured by the vanguard of the Shadow invasion, leaving Daernen to mount a defence against an army that few can see and that can turn people to its service with even the slightest blow. Armed with both fire magic and an artefact of the gods, Daernen can destroy the Shadows with ease; however, how can he justify it when they are innocents bound to service by dark sorcery?

This novel picks up immediately after the end of Magic’s Stealing, opening on a mad dash toward the nearest port. With the world already set in the previous volume, Flint keeps this focus on the action apart from brief moments of exposition. As these moments are also usually set into dialogues where at least one person doesn’t know the information, the book does not have the same feel of slight distance that the first volume had in places.

Drawing the perspective back from the personal-scale conflict of the previous book, Flint makes use of several point-of-view characters to show the Shadows’ assault on the whole city from first move to massed combat without losing the reader’s sympathy. Having Toranih within the enemy camp from almost the beginning of the book especially builds this sense of breadth without distance.

These multiple viewpoints also permit dramatic irony: while Daeren worries that there might be a way to save the Shadows from their master, readers see someone who is able to keep their free will after infection; thus, each time Daeren or other defenders choose to destroy Shadows to save the uninfected, the reader knows that they are ending someone’s hope of rescue.

The protagonists each display a good balance of enduring traits and plausible changes from the previous book: Toranih still wants to be a warrior, but has accepted the need to use her magic; Daeren still strives to be the good guy, but has realised it’s more complex than killing the enemy to save your own side.

The antagonists display a similar new yet consistent behaviour. While the army of Shadows is seeking to conquer, its leaders reveal a more nuanced, and sometimes conflicting, set of reasons for their behaviour.

Overall, I enjoyed this novel. I recommend it to readers looking for fast-paced fantasy set in a complex world.

I received a free copy from the author with a request for a fair review.

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