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Book Review: Shadow’s Son by Jon Sprunk

shadow's son Genre: Sword and Sorcery
Paperback: 279 pages
Publisher: Pyr
Publication Date: June 8, 2010
ISBN-10: 1616142014
ISBN-13: 978-1616142018
Author Website: Jon Sprunk

Shadow’s Son, by debut author Jon Sprunk, is an exciting sword and sorcery fantasy that follows the story of an assassin, Caim, as he finds himself thrust into an insidious plot meant to bring about his death and change his home city of Othir forever.

The story follows a typical fantasy plotline. A dark, shadowy figure finds himself the target of a plot to discredit him, for no apparent reason, that turns out to reveal a lot about his long distant past. Sprunk takes the fantasy stereotype and runs with it, making no bones about being an adventure tale. The plot is fast-paced and engaging and if fantasy is your preferred milieu, you will love that Sprunk hits all the high points you might expect.

The character of Caim is fairly standard. Though an assassin, he has a good heart, and prefers commissions to kill victims that have done some grievous wrong. (Shades of Dexter, anyone?) And given opportunity, he tries to do the right thing and avoid unnecessary bloodshed. Caim is someone a Dungeons and Dragons player would call a “chaotic good” type of character. His companion Kit, the ghostly girl who appears and disappears at whim and can be seen by non one else, give Sprunk the ability to avoid having the story told entirely through “I” statements and allows for dialogue where none would otherwise be present. It is good that he gave her a whimsical nature, a character of her own, so that the counterpoint did not feel forced. And the damsel in distress, Josephine, is everything any male hero looks for in a heroine: spunky yet feminine, smart yet with a touch of naiveté.

The magic in the story is mostly Caim’s who has an uncanny ability to call forth shadows at need, though it is a power he fears and tries to avoid using. However, he has an opposite hidden within the ranks of the church/state power structure who is not, and who has worked to develop his power to a keen edge. Caim comes out as the underdog, but with his skills and righteousness on his side, there is every possibility he will prevail.

Sprunk doesn’t do anything innovative with this story. It is just straight up, old fashioned sword and sorcery. The type of tale that makes for great reading after a long, brain-straining day at work. You can just curl up with Shadow’s Son and be entertained. Nothing showy, nothing flashy, just good, solid storytelling, an interesting character, a foe to be fought and a damsel to be saved. Readers of Michael Moorcock or Robert Howard will see their effect on Sprunk’s writing.

I loved it, and am eagerly anticipating the sequel. Caim has the same appeal as Paul S. Kemp’s Erevis Cale or Brent Weeks’s Kylar Stern. They are all assassins doing good deeds from the shadows, and if you liked either of those characters, than Caim will be a welcome addition to the canon. I look forward to many more excellent stories of the assassin Caim, the Shadow’s Son.