Saturday, August 14, 2010
Posted by PeterWilliam at 2:00 AM
Shadow's Son, by Jon Sprunk
Paperback: 278 pages
Publisher: Pyr, ©2010
Copy: Out of pocket
From the back cover: In the holy city of Othir, treachery and corruption lurk at the end of every street, just the place for a freelance assassin with no loyalties and few scruples. Caim makes his living on the edge of a blade, but when a routine job goes south, he is thrust into the middle of an insidious plot. Pitted against crooked lawmen, rival killers, and sorcery from the Other Side, his only allies are Josephine, the socialite daughter of his last target, and Kit, a guardian spirit no one else can see. In this fight for his life, Caim only trusts his knives and his instincts, but they won't be enough when his quest for justice leads him from Othir's hazardous back alleys to its shining corridors of power. To unmask a conspiracy at the heart of the empire, he must clam his birthright as the Shadow's Son...
This work was certainly a quick read, without any slow portions. It's a rather straightforward tale of an assassin, Caim, who struggles with elements of his past. Elements he clearly does not fully understand. Some such elements arrive in the present and, consequently, threaten any possibility of a future. Caim spends the majority of the tale playing catch-up to others' agendas. Agendas which have no spare room for Caim to continue consuming oxygen.
Our protagonist, while very skilled, does have another layer. He has some ethereal connection to the realm of shadows. This connection manifests on occasions where Caim is intensely afraid or angry. His lack of direct control of this connection causes some complications. When active, Caim's connection to the realm of shadows allows him to be completely unobserved - possibly even invisible. As the tale unfolds, the reader becomes aware that this connection may do more than Caim suspects.
The tale also gives us a couple of other main characters to this tale, in the form of a love interest and side-kick. Josephine, the love interest, is introduced to the reader as something of a naive, bubble-headed socialite. Events unfold abruptly which carve the innocence completely off of her. Kit, Caim's side-kick, is an ethereal being that has been with Caim since he can remember. Even Caim has no idea what Kit really is, and where she goes when she whimsically vanishes, either because of boredom or in a fit of pique. In fact, even when present, Caim is the only person capable of seeing Kit. Sprunk's characters are not overly complex, but are well rendered for their roles in the tale.
Sprunk's tale is composed, and reads, from your garden variety third-person limited omniscient perspective. Of particular note, is Sprunk's plot. While Sprunk hints and foreshadows a great deal about the realm of shadows, the nature of Caim's companion, Kit, and Caim's past, it is not done in the sort of glaring, over-the-top, super-charged fashion that is becoming increasingly common (not necessarily a "bad" thing - simply a different approach). Sprunk is very measured and deliberate with the doling out of content in his debut. Indeed, there is the sense that Sprunk will have his readers returning for further episodes (I'm reminded of Kung Fu and The Incredible Hulk - of 1970's American television) of Caim - the Shadow's Son.
In summary, Shadow's Son is a fair debut effort. It does not burden the reader with massive assimilation workloads (e.g. cast of characters, innumerable political intrigues, geography, magic system) and maintains the reader's attention throughout. While the tale was, in a sense, simplistic, only the tip of the iceberg has been exposed thus far. Sprunk has a great deal of room in which to expand and elaborate on Caim, his world and his story.
Fair to Recommended