Book of the Year 2020 (see all)
Alec Hutson concludes his sprawling, epic fantasy trilogy with The Shadow King. This is epic fantasy in a classic vein written for modern audiences. It’s excellent. The characters come alive, and we cheer for their successes and mourn for their failures. The world building continues to be phenomenal, and the plot rushes to a superb conclusion.
As the third book in the trilogy, The Shadow King has the advantage of all the setup having happened in the previous books. That means it could focus entirely on bringing threads together for a stunning endgame - and it does that perfectly. From the opening pages, we’re swept up again in a story of sorcerers and paladins, of nearly immortal plotters and upstart queens, and of a boy discovering what it means to live a life fraught with magic. If these sound like classic fantasy tropes that’s because they are, but Hutson shifts and twists each just enough to make them interesting. That’s one of the reasons I love this series so much. It feels like classic fantasy, but done in a fresh way. While the plot rushes to its epic conclusion, the characters also draw you in keeping things interesting and fresh. Our main viewpoint characters continue to be engaging in this novel. Each plot point tends to be tied into something that furthers the development of our characters as well, and that’s something I always appreciate in my fantasy. In this case, it helps to keep the sprawling plot grounded in the human lives that these events affect. This grounding is also important because Hutson has crammed an incredible amount of world building into this trilogy. It never feels like it’s too much, however. Rather, each element of the world building combines to form a spectacular backdrop on which the events of the story play out. Half the fun is discovering the history of the world and how that history has brought the world and the characters to the present crisis. This world building extends to the marvelous magic that Hutson lets us see at nearly every turn. So much of what I love about epic fantasy plays out on these pages. Masterfully done, I enjoyed every moment.
What few things I didn’t like are small. The book can move a little slowly at times, especially in the first half. I didn’t mind this because it was easy to see how things were coming together, but it might be a larger negative for those who prefer a very fast-paced narrative. In terms of the characters, they are each engaging, and they all develop in ways that feel real. However, for a few of them, I didn’t feel as much emotional connection as I might have liked. There were certain moments when I felt like a deeper emotional connection to the character might have elevated my experience of the story. Even so, I found the tale to have more than enough to adore without this.
Hutson’s The Shadow King is a wonderful conclusion to his epic trilogy. It has a perfect classic fantasy feel. A wonderful epic fantasy to read curled in a blanket on a snowy morning sipping coffee. The way the various plot threads come together in a satisfying way is a masterful achievement. It's epic fantasy comfort food in the best sense of the term.
-- Calvin Park
The Raveling trilogy is a throwback, classic epic fantasy story that is smartly plotted and tightly written, with detailed world-building and a deep well of rich lore that draws on both eastern and western cultures. It is also an extremely polished work, and would fit perfectly in the bookshelves of any fantasy enthusiast. The Shadow King concludes what is a truly thrilling adventure that will have you pumping your fist while grimacing with anticipation. Although the trilogy may be over, I hope we’ll see a lot more of this world. Regardless, whatever Hutson decides to write will be a first-day purchase.
This is a fully-realized world with a lot of moving parts, and I'll admit I was a bit concerned how (and if) everything was going to tie together in just one novel, especially after the ambiguous way that The Silver Sorceress concluded. Not only do we have major characters strewn across the world, we're introducing terrible new threats, and we're still unclear about the motivations of some of the major players.
One of the numerous aspects of the story that impressed me was how each of these concerns were addressed so well, and how each character was given enough pages to provide a balanced and powerful conclusion. It was thrilling to see the web of storylines finally tighten, bringing all the major players together in the same part of the world, albeit for different reasons. And the threats themselves -- remember the spider warren in The Crimson Queen? The brief foray into a monster-laden dungeon? That was Disney World compared to what our cast has to contend with in the last act of the story. In the many books I've read that have evil, elder gods as antagonist threats, I've never read anything quite so awesome as what Hutson put together here.
There are other aspects to the book that elevates Hutson's writing beyond just the story. There's a cadence in the writing; a steady prose that offers a balanced blend of description, meter, and dialogue.
“The Mazespinner. The Black Lady. The Night Huntress. Caryxes, worshipped in these depths for ages undreamt.”
“If she ever wanted to pass a message to future generations she would hide it in the lyrics of a children’s song.”
In addition, the book *looks* fantastic. The whole trilogy is produced with a professional sheen that stands out, from the covers to the editing and typography. These books are self-published but are ‘camera-ready’ to stand side-by-side with any trad-published book in a Barnes and Noble or Waterstones.
The Raveling is a trilogy I can easily recommend. Like any good story, it gets better the further in you go. The finale hits hard, and while it satisfies the major arcs, it also leaves some doors open to explore in future books. As it should! This is a rich and wonderous world with characters you won’t want to leave behind. Any lover of fantasy who grew up reading Weis & Hickman, David Eddings, Robert Jordan, or Terry Brooks should pick up this trilogy as soon as they can.
9.0 / 10
-- Adam Weller
9/10 from 1 reviews
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