Shadowing: A Henchman's Tale by Kat Zantow

Rating 8.4/10
A little gem from a gifted storyteller.

Now this is more like it. At last, an author who understands that most of us want to be entertained by a story, an author who doesn't take it all too seriously and yet is still able to make you care about the characters. I am pleased to announce that the art of good story-telling is still alive and well, as evinced by Kat Zantow's Shadowing: A Henchman's Tale.

The moon has not changed in the fifty years of the dark lord Magna’s rule - but everything else has.

All too often, the servants of Dark Overlords are dispatched with a lazy flick of the hero's sword. But in Shadowing, the job benefits of fire, mayhem, and shapeshifting almost make up for it. In between burning down villages, the minion's primary directive is taking out heroes. When a man in golden armour and his faithful companions sneak across the border on a quest to assassinate the Dark Lord Magna, long live the Magna, it's up to the Shadows to cut his quest short. As always, things do not go quite according to plan, and one henchman ends up lone-wolfing it across the permafrost lands, following the stench of valour.

Virginian Zantow (author, squirrel-trainer and cat-herder) has, in Shadowing: A Henchman's Tale, written a cracking fire-side yarn that affectionately pokes fun at classic high fantasy and sword and sorcery whilst still being a quality fantasy tale in its own right. Quite an achievement I think.

Those of you who have read Stan Nicholl's Orcs will remember just how refreshing it was to read a book that has been written, not from the perspective of the "heroes", but from that of beings which are almost always forced to adopt the role of two-dimensional baddies. Shadowing: A Henchman's Tale does the exact same, written in the first person through the remembrances of a servant of the Dark Lord Magna, long live the Magna; a henchman who delights in nothing more than attempting to bring down gold-armoured knights, mighty barbarians or bow-and-arrow wielding elves. It is this neat twist that makes this story so fresh and such a pleasant escape from the norm.

And rarely is a book so easy to read, thanked in no small part to its short length (possibly more novella than novel). Sometimes exposition is necessary in a book but all to often it crosses over the invisible line into self-indulgence, where the reader is left to trudge through page after page of world-building that really is of interest to the author alone. This is certainly not the case here - it is all about the story and the characters, just how it should be and the result is a reading experience every bit as good as those I have enjoyed when reading David Gemmell (who is still the King of Readability in my opinion).

Well-written and a highly enjoyable, with shades of Pratchett and Gemmell, Shadowing: A Henchman's Tale is a little gem from a gifted storyteller. I would highly recommend it and - at the time this review was written -  is currently available to purchase from Amazon's Kindle Store for just £2.10 and as such is worth every penny. I greatly look forward to the future instalments in the Moonblind series.

To keep up to date with this promising young author, visit http://twitter.com/#!/kat_zantow

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