Shadow by K.J. Parker, is an interesting story, especially for people who enjoy having a lot of mystery in their books and also for those who like action, adventure, a plethora of intriguing characters, and a challenge.
The first book in the Scavenger Trilogy, Shadow begins with the protagonist awakening without a memory, in a stream in a valley surrounded by blood, dead men and some curious crows. All he has are a sword and his troubled dreams. He doesn’t even have a name.
The land that he has awakened in is called the Empire. It has many large cities and is very powerful but over the years due to political unrest, bandits, and mysterious raiders, the Empire has been whittled down to a fragment of what it once was. Our character awakens to this world where political intrigues happen every day and battles every other. He travels all over, meeting many people and trying to figure himself out .
The book is has a wonderfully crafted and practical world. It also has an intriguing religion with unique ideas and myths. The characters are wonderfully fleshed out but kept with enough lacking that the reader always wants to know more about them and their actions are often unexpected.
Through his travels and his dreams the reader is led to believe the protagonist is all sorts of things. At times throughout the book he is led to believe he is anything from a warrior to a god. At times he gets work as as a courier, a salesman, and a con man. The mystery seems to unfold more in every page but really the mystery is just getting all the more tangled. He meets many who know him but through misfortune and misunderstanding, he always ends up with less information than he began with. It may seem a long read but the intrigue keeps you hooked.
Along with the protagonist, the reader meets many people, including a warrior-monk named Monach and a woman named Copis, who is almost as unknown to the reader as the main character.
Shadow is a gripping and challenging book. Many times a reader may feel as though nothing is known at all. With the action, mystery, and a good deal of dry humor the reader will want to continue. K.J. Parker has made a truly original book out of something which at first glance may seem cliche, a man with very good fighting skills losing his memory resolves itself as being an intensely intellectual book, with a wonderful mix of action, adventure, mystery and crows.
The only criticism is that it at times can read slowly. Even the slow parts however, are rife with mystery and dry humor. Some wordings and situations definitely had me chuckling to myself. This book will keep you up at night reading, always wanting the next detail to puzzle out his identity, the characters and the world itself.
Review by Roni Garrett
Patience from Canada
Who is the militaristic man who awakens amnesia-struck on a battleground? His lack of knowledge is due to a literal or perhaps divine inspired bash to the noggin? An undependable prince? A mercenary commander? The only good man in an Empire of political intrigue? A raider from across the seas? A warrior monk? A God? A soul taken over a dead man's body? The worst man alive? Nobody important? Then why do people keep recognizing him? Why is he so good at killing? How did he come to impersonate a God traveling in a cart? The book is intentionally vague and obfuscates the main story line by showing flashbacks to each side character's one or more historical scene of import. Counter to the deception and lack of answers is a heavy handed and obvious reveal of the God who doesn't know he is a God story line. Almost all the characters, other than the protagonist, know the rules by which the God Poldarn operates and lives in. The God travels in a cart, has to do with industry and fireworks, rebirth, doesn't know he is a god, brings about the end of the world, all of that. If only the main character could spend his free time, when he isn't killing someone in life or death struggles to find out an answer or two. Overall the action and most of the political machinations are interesting and fun, but the spying and answers which the key players hold and don't hold can be frustrating. I would have much preferred less deliberate pulling the rug out from under the main character's feet each time they were presented with a person who knew them.
7.9/10 from 2 reviews