Shadow of the Demon by David Burrows (The Prophecy of the Kings: Book 3)

The threat from Trosgarth is growing and betrayal is in the air. The Priests of Ryoch, no longer a minor faction, now include warrior priests with empathic powers. Armies are marching to war and the balance is no longer in the favour of the allies, for without the Eldric and their sorcery they cannot hope to win. Desperate to redress the balance a new power will be sought, but this will not be all that it seems.

Kaplyn's nightmares are plagued by dragons and his fear of them has driven him from Thrace, seeking the truth behind an image, revealed to him by Astalus the Court Wizard. Vastra is alive and if that is true then the enemy possesses a crystal from the tree of life and can open a permanent gateway between the worlds, allowing hoards of demons to cross the divide.

Kaplyn will be driven to the very brink of despair, having touched a kara-stone he has awoken the link with his Shaol and madness threatens his fragile hold on reality…

Shadow of the Demon is the third and final instalment in The Prophecy of the Kings trilogy, a story that was begun in Legacy of the Eldric and continued in Dragon Rider.

The trilogy is a highly enjoyable series of books to read. If you were looking for comparisons in style and substance then the late Professor Tolkien and the wonderful Robin Hobb would come close. Indeed, The Lord of the Rings by Tolkien was responsible for awakening David Burrows' interest in fantasy and this in turn led to the author attempting to create a story featuring bold characters and intriguing plot. This aim has certainly been achieved.

The main characters, Kaplyn, Lomar and Lars are by now old friends; they are also strong and well-formed. Shadow of the Demon is a fitting end to this epic fantasy tale and its pages showcase a vivid and original imagination. The narrative is at is strongest when dealing with the past – the creation theory is first-rate, well conceived and genuinely moving, and the way in which Kaplyn experiences the past-life of his shaol (a kind of guardian spirit), Shastlyn, is delightfully well described. The parts where Kaplyn battles with his very real inner demon make for compelling reading as the noble and caring man struggles with violent, cruel and tyrannical compulsions.

The excerpt below describes Lomar's feelings when he first sees Kaplyn's shaol:

“What had shocked him most though was the ghostly shape, standing by Kaplyn's side. He had seen other people's shaols before, but they had always looked vague, like an indistinct fog. This time the shaol had looked as real as Kaplyn although it shimmered in and out of view as though his presence in this world was tenuous.”
Chapter 1: An Unexpected Encounter

There is no doubt that the three books could be brought together to form a fantastic single book (approximately 600+ pages). There are so many good ideas and clever plot lines that a little good housekeeping could produce a stunning novel like Raymond E. Feist's Magician. Strengthening the already strong areas and removing any major weaknesses would leave Burrows with a story far above the average.

By way of improvements the series would benefit from some nicely designed covers and some further editing, particularly on sentence structure and the synopsis that adorns the back cover.

The Prophecy of the Kings is good fantasy; it could, with a little bit more work, be excellent.

8/10 Good fantasy; it could, with a little bit more work, be excellent.

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