Monday, 29 March 2010

Shadow Prowler by Alexey Pehov

April 2010, Simon and Schuster
396 pages (see note), Trade Paperback Royal
Review Copy


Cushions: 3
Daggers: 5 (Gets rather gory - especially with zombies)
Paperclips: 1 (maybe 0.5)
Smiles: 4
Tissues: 1
Yunaleska's recommended rating: ♥♥♥♥

Note: The final product, I think, has 400 pages. I'm not entirely sure what the Royal part of Trade Paperback means - I just copied details from the back of my copy

Summary from Simon and Schuster

After centuries of calm, the Nameless One is stirring. An army is gathering: giants, ogres and other creatures joining forces from across the Desolate Lands, united for the first time in history under one black banner. By the spring, or perhaps sooner, the Nameless One and his forces will be at the walls of the great city of Avendoom.

Unless Shadow Harold, master thief, can find some way to stop them.

Epic fantasy at its best, Shadow Prowler is the first in a trilogy that follows professional thief Shadow Harold on his quest for a magic Horn that will restore peace to the kingdom of Siala. Accompanied by an elfin princess, ten Wild Hearts - the most experienced and dangerous royal fighters - and the King's court jester (who may be more than he seems ... or less), Harold must outwit angry demons, escape the clutches of a band of hired murderers, survive ten bloody skirmishes ... and reach the burial grounds before dark. Can he escape a fate worse than death?

I have yet to turn down an email request for me to review a book. I couldn't say no to a bestseller from Russia now, could I? Giants, ogres, elves felt pretty normal. But zombies? With elves? That's a new-ish one for me. It was an enjoyable combination of species, who Harold runs in to frequently. More often than not they are after him for not so pleasant reasons. It was funny how much trouble he stumbled across in the first book of his adventure. The hilarity increased with Harold's voice.

Told from the first person, I was hooked by the first few paragraphs. Harold has a voice which meant the pages melted away without me noticing that I'd read a quarter of the book. A thief always interests me as a character, because I want to see whether they have any good in them. Harold does - there were moments where I reached for the tissue, by the way that he reacts to a few of the scenarios. Equally, a thief has a lot of enemies. Some are new. Some are cleverer than the demon who appears in a door way within the first chapter - although the goat-like demons who redefine the meaning of 'friendly fire' were one of the dumbest animals around.

Just because they were stupid, didn't mean that Harold had the upper hand. In a few places he was saved by luck, and by the welcome sight of people who were also after him. On the subject of characters, there were a few that stand out. I mistakenly thought the Elfen princess would be a beauty - she is for her own kind. She has a more than adequate knowledge of shamanism, which is surpassed by a character from an unexpected source. Harold is not all that he seems after a significant event.

This event meant that Harold developed magical powers. I can't be more accurate than that, but the powers aren't easy to conquer or manage. In fact, it is pretty hit and miss when they'll flare up. The source behind the power - well that provided a different point of view for a chapter. I enjoyed that first pov change because it was entertaining, different to Harold's voice, but interesting all the same. The second different pov chapter was okay - I didn't love it, but it did elaborate on the story.

The final pov chapter change was near the end. I confess to skipping it. I started reading it, but couldn't find anything that interested me (ok, there is one line which I liked, but the rest really put me to sleep. No offence to the author and/or translator....but I learnt more from reading the chapter with Harold's pov straight after). I'm all for providing different povs to get information across, so long as it is interesting to the reader. That's why I dropped my rating by one. That and in a few places, it felt that Harold's description of the world/events dragged a little - even with his humour I had to make myself keep reading a few paragraphs. Another thing to point out - it isn't until well over halfway through the book that Harold actually joints up with the characters in the summary. There's a lot of preparation before the main quest - and many sub quests which reminded me in part of role playing games.

Back to the characters - there are so many funny ones. Almost all of them have hidden agendas, and don't reveal every detail of their power and their background. These not so small details prove useful later on. No, I'm not even giving a hint of which characters I'm talking about! That would be a huge spoiler.

The level of detail here is such that I could smell everything Harold smelled. I didn't check in a mirror, but I'm certain I turned green at a few points. There was one bit which freaked me out so badly I nearly shut the book for good. I managed to convince myself it probably wasn't as bad as I thought, and that I've been freaked out more by paranormal anime. I'm glad I finished it.

I really enjoyed this. Evil really is evil - it's a large in numbers, size and power type of evil. Harold meets all of them. Good prevails - but only just by the skin of its teeth. I sped through the book, and groaned when I reached the end. It's not a clean ending. It's a definite to-be-continued ending. I want the next book out now!

It isn't easy translating a book, and I feel that Andrew Bromfield did a great job. Russian is a language I don't know, and unfortunately I have enough hobbies that I can't add it to the list. It must be quite something to read this in Russian - it's definitely worth a read in English!

Alexey can be found on his website (in English, so no scrambling for a translator)


Rose Works Jewelry said...

This looks right up my alley - AND my library has a copy :D Woot!

Yunaleska said...

yay for library having a copy!