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12 June 2020

Review - Lady of Shadows by Breanna Teintze

Cover design by Rory Kee
Lady of Shadows (The Empty Gods, 2)
Breanna Teintze
Jo Fletcher Books, 16 April 2020
Available as: TPB, 322pp, e
Read as: TPB
ISBN: 9781787476486

I'm grateful to Jo Fletcher Books for an advance copy of Lady of Shadows to consider for review.

I was pleased to see this follow up to Lord of Secrets, picking up the adventures of rogue magician Corcoran Gray and his partner, escaped temple slave Brix, some six months after the events of the previous book.

The books are set in what seems at first glance to be a generic fantasy world, but Teintze's handling of her material soon gives the lie to that. Gray is driven to the town of varied - and into the reach of the all-powerful* Mages' Guild to whom he's a rebel, an outcast and an outlaw - not by a desire for treasure of adventure but because he can't sleep easily at nights.

He can't sleep because of trauma caused by the events of Lord of Secrets. It's not so much that he died and was incarnated into a handily empty body by his necromancer grandfather. No, it's the thirty two deaths (count them. Thirty. Two. Gray reminds us of the number several times) that occurred in that battle. Gray didn't cause them, but he feels responsible. Guilty. He also, clearly, feels the horror of what happened. When he sleeps, he casts spells. Sooner or later things will go to the bad. So he's come seeking a remedy... and stumbles into a mess of plots, counter plots and Guild intrigues.

Also - and how spookily timely is this? - there's a plague abroad, a mysterious thing that seems to target mages and the mysterious Tirnaal, Brix's people. As if this doesn't make Gray's life complicated enough, add in a zealous Guild inquisitor who wants to use him to find out what's going on in the city of Genereth, where the plague seems to have started and who WILL see him hang outside the guild house if he refuses - and you get, frankly, a mess.

This book is great fun. I enjoy Gray's sort of character - someone who basically wants a quiet life and some peace to get himself together, but who the world won't leave alone. What happened in Lord of Secrets changes him and made him an important piece on the board, so Guild, Gods, and other factions now see him as a means to an end not just a nuisance. After what Gray went thorough he can be forgiven for being very, very suspicious of those around him and he's not helpless, but Genereth is a dangerous place and there's a mystery to be solved. So the book is part fantasy, part detective story with elements of caper, and, in the rather tenderly drawn relationship between Gray and Brix, also elements of romance.

They're a strong pair of central characters, trusting and close but with a lot of history (in a short time) behind them and the situation creates its own strains. Generate is the ancestral city of the Tirnaal, the place from which Brix and her sister were abducted and enslaved, and so there's an element of "meet the family" to this story. Gray has his worries. The Tirnaal don't like magic a great deal (they have their reasons) so how will they react when one of their own takes up with a mage? Once she's returned home, will Brix want to leave? Despite the breakneck pace of this story - things don't really let up from the moment the party arrive in the city to the last page - Teintze gives space to this very human, very normal story and it motivates both Gray and Brix throughout.

A strong second part in this series, Lady of Shadows intelligently develops the situation from the first book and opens up much wider possibilities - and dangers - for Gray and for Brix. I somehow don't think he's going to get that peace and quiet any time soon...

For more information about the book, see the publisher's website here.

*Actually the Guild is less than all-powerful with the authorities in general suspicious of the mages, which adds a tasty dash of politics and uncertainty to the whole narrative

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