Science Fiction and Fantasy Association of New Zealand

Shadows Son Shadows Son
by Jon Sprunk

Supplied for review by Hachette New Zealand

Reviewed By: Stephen Litten

Shadow’s Son is a bit of a parson’s egg. Caim is an assassin sent to kill a seemingly minor noble, only to find the man dead before the deed is done. He is disturbed in his investigations of the corpse by his putative victim’s daughter, Josey. But having a code, he doesn’t kill her. They are both interrupted by the local equivalent of the law, who have descended on the house with the intention of killing both Caim and Josey. Caim, drawing on a power he is not entirely comfortable using affects their escape and renders several of the attackers hors de combat. It takes several close encounters with the "law" for Josey to realise she is as much a target as Caim and cleave to him out of necessity.

I want to scream that this could have been better, for there are several clichés in the story: an assassin with a code, the tart with a heart, sole surviving heir to the throne. Mercifully they are not over-egged with other clichés, but still: they are clichés. Caim has a power that he barely understands, and it frightens him when he does use it. Unfortunately, this could have been explored better and more fully, but at least it does not become a wonder weapon. There is also the waste of Caim’s invisible friend, Kit. Whether she is truly real, or merely a manifestation of Caim’s power is not fully resolved. But only Caim can see and hear her, and she does feed him useful information. And like most female companions, she displays a fit of pique when Caim shows more concern over his latest acquaintance than her.

What do help overcome the clichés are the two primary villains. One is a Machiavellian prelate, intent on establishing a theocracy with himself as chief theocrat. The other is a dark sorcerer, the private assassin of the prelate. While the latter is drawn more sketchily than the former, they add a level of interest to the story and help transform it. Naturally the story rolls to a climax with a showdown between the dark sorcerer and Caim. Mercifully, Sprunk manages to stave off the seemingly inevitable "boy meets girl, boy gets girl despite the circumstances" ending. I wait to see if Sprunk’s storytelling has improved in the sequel, Shadow’s Lure.

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