Noonshade by James Barclay
Review by Joshua S Hill
In a true example of why James Barclay is one of the best modern day fantasy writers, Noonshade continues on his Chronicles of the Raven series, and sees the story continue and his talents grow. Barclay sets this book literally half an hour after Dawnthief is finished, and never misses a beat. I came to these books late, and was able to read all six one after the other, and I have no idea how people managed without that luxury. Barclay is an author you just do not want to ever put down.
Following on from their marred victory at the end of Dawnthief, the Raven soon find themselves beset with an entirely new problem that only they are capable of dealing with. Once again having seen their mercenary group reform around its new members, the Raven must now fix the unexpected catastrophe that saw them save their world.
And this time with even more dragons than before!
By this point, Barclay has already shown himself to be a masterful storyteller, and a genius penning a battle and mercenaries. But throughout Noonshade we get a glimpse into his ability to write dragons.
Some may consider this a relatively mundane praise point on my part, but one must only read some of the books featuring giant blue dragons (oops!) to know that not all dragons are written well. They aren’t just giant lizards; they are and will always be the arrogant bastards that Tolkien wrote about in the Hobbit.
Sha-kaan is the perfect example of this arrogance, and the reason why it is completely justified. Master of his realm, leader of his dragon brood, and the unknown savior of Balaia, Sha-kaan must deal with the missteps of these wayward humans that call themselves the Raven. But in Hirad Coldheart he finds a friend, and this friendship holds through much of Barclay’s Raven story.
You can’t help but love the relationships that pop up. Of them all, my favorite is between Ilkar and Denser. In a measure of stereotype, they start out as enemies and end as best friends. But you can’t count Barclay out, and though the stereotype is there in a generalized description, he adds so much more to it than you could really hope for. From their jibing humor, their shared mastery of their magic, and the respect they have for each other, you can hardly get enough of them.
Another aspect of Barclay’s writing that I have come to adore is his ability to continually shed light onto a characters character. He does not simply allow a measure of the first book in a series for character development, and then go all gung-ho from then on. His characters – though revolving at times in their appearances – continue to grow as people and with each other. It is a fascinating study of a life that, mores the pity, is long behind us.
Noonshade continues highlighting just why Barclay is one of the best writers we have in the fantasy genre. But never think that this is where it finishes, considering that we have 4 books left to review and they keep getting better.
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