Publisher: Orbit Books
Page Count: 315
Release Date: August 21st, 2018
Series: SPELLSLINGER, Book 2
Rating: 4/5 Stars – Really Liked It!
Warning: Light spoilers ahead for Book 1, SPELLSLINGER. Haven’t read it? You can read for review here!
It’s been four months since Kellen was exiled from his homeland. Four months of running from bounty hunters. Four months of searching of a cure for Kellen’s shadowblack, a marking the Jan’Tep believe marks you as demon-cursed, able to channel dark energies no mortal should mess with – and therefore someone who should be killed on sight. And it’s been four months of Kellen trying to get his traveling partner, Ferius Parfax, to teach him how to be an Argosi, a mysterious group of people who travel the world and always seem to arrive at places as a great change is about to happen. She’s been frustratingly vague on the subject, but Kellen might have a new teacher to learn from when their paths cross with Rosie, another Argosi escorting a young woman home to her family. But Rosie’s charge might be even more important to Kellen’s fate. Somehow, this young woman has contracted shadowblack, something that should only affect mages – and she isn’t the first one in the area. With the risk of a deadly plague looming, the race is on to finally find a cure for shadowblack.
SHADOWBLACK continues on the saga of the SPELLSLINGER with another rapid adventure, one that seems to establishing a precedent of episodic adventures held together by a much larger conspiracy. We are introduced to a new location in SHADOWBLACK, the Seven Sands and the town of Teleidos. SHADOWBLACK has a decidedly more American Western feel than the previous book, with dusty streets, ramshackle towns, and a new spellslinger character that wears a brimmed hat and spurs, very much evoking the “lone gunslinger” archetype. Ferius always had a Western vibe about her in SPELLSLINGER, but now we see the world she’s been living in before she found Kellen and understand a little better how she came to be like that.
We also get to see more of the Argosi way with the new character of Rosie. The book is divided into sections, each of which begins with part of the Argosi creedo as it were. Rosie represents the more “official” Argosi lifestyle, while Ferius has put her own spin on the path, a fact that drove the two characters apart years ago. I enjoyed the continued world building on display, and given how SHADOWBLACK ends, it seems that we will continue gradually exploring this world, as our characters are embarking to a new city as the book came to a close.
Along with slowly expanding the worldbuilding, the SPELLSLINGER series seems to be setting up a larger character arc for main hero Kellen. Kellen is wrestling with the question of where he fits in the world now that he’s been rejected by his clan and his family. As a typical teenager, he’s headstrong and stubborn and doesn’t understand why Ferius can’t stop being cryptic and hand him the answers. But he IS growing and finding his way, and I’m sure looking to forward to seeing where Kellen is by the end of the series.
For all my love for this series so far, I do have one quibble. For the second time in as many books, we are introduced to a character that seems to have been written as love interest first, and her own person second. In SPELLSLINGER, it was Nephenia, in SHADOWBLACK it’s Seneira. To be fair, Seneira is more developed than Nephania, and has her own problems to be solved, but at the end of the day, she seemed to be there so Kellen could save the day. de Castell has plenty of great female characters running about: Ferius and Rosie are fascinating in their different approaches to the world, and Shalla I largely want to strangle (because she’s obnoxiously, but believably, arrogant and obtuse). But Seneira I personally bounced off of because there didn’t seem to be much there beyond “tortured soul.”
All in all, SHADOWBLACK was a fun adventure that I devoured in a few days. I’m really appreciating these books and how quickly they move, while still (mostly) getting me invested in the characters. I’ll definitely be picking up book three, CHARMCASTER, soon and continuing on with the series!