Premise: Caim is an assassin for hire followed by an ethereal spirit named Kit. He has special powers that allow him to control and wrap himself in shadows. He is going about his killing business when everything starts to go wrong. It all begins with a missed bow shot in a crowded party and goes downhill from there.
Things get a little hairy so he decides to lay low for a while, but his financier Mathias wants him to do one last lucrative job. The only problem is it is a job his rival Ral apparently didn’t want. When Caim arrives at the job, the old aristocrat is already dead and his daughter Josephine walks in on Caim standing over the body. He could have left it at that and either taken off or killed her as well, but somehow the Sacred Brotherhood from the True Church shows up expecting her and her father to both be dead and Caim is dragged into a political and other-worldly struggle for power.
In the middle of all the political maneuvering comes Josey’s discovery about her father. And when Caim learns more about his parentage he is faced with accepting his powers and what that means for him and his search for his mother. With an evil sorcerer Levictus, Ral, and more coming after them, will Caim and Josey survive?
Themes: Politics are all over this novel, complete with uprisings, alliances, corruption, and backstabbing (literally and figuratively). With other political powers such as the Elector Council (the leaders of the True Church), the Sacred Brotherhood (the Church’s enforcers), and the Azure Hawks (an underground militia group led by Hubert Vassili, the archpriest’s son). Religion plays a role in Shadow’s Son almost as another political entity. The True Church was responsible for ousting the former Nimean emperor. They have gained in power with the help of the Sacred Brotherhood and the Elector Council. While not inherently evil, the hierarchy of the Church wields its power more like a governmental entity of a theocracy than a religious group.
We see a lot pointing towards acceptance of ability and acceptance of self in Caim and Josey. Caim must accept who he is in order to achieve his potential and Josey must accept who she is (without giving too much away) and play her role in the grand scheme.
This is also a story about justice and seeking revenge, with Caim looking for his father’s killer, Josey wanting to discover her father’s killer and the reasons behind his death, and then Levictus seeking revenge against the Church.
Pros: The dialog set apart most of the characters to be distinct each in their own voice. I was intrigued with Caim’s powers and the similarities and differences they had between those of Levictus the sorcerer. Levictus is a good foil to Caim, both in how they wield their powers and in their desire for justice. Kit is just plain fun, but seems to be hiding more than we know about her. And the pace of the action ranged from mostly breakneck to whirlwind the rest of the time. I loved the idea behind the shadow magic.
Cons: Some of the main character actions seemed arbitrary against their constructed motivations, such as how Caim only seems to kill bad guys and when he decides to spare Josey with little to no real explanation other than it felt wrong to leave here there alive. Also, when does he and doesn’t he trust his powers? At first Caim uses his powers as just another tool, but when he begins to fear they are more sinister than he thought he stops using them. At some point he gives into them, but there were a couple of times that was unclear when he decides to trust them near the end. I could have used some more depth into the shadow magic system and background of some of the characters in general. Also, the whole rape scene felt totally unnecessary.
Recommendations: Shadow’s Son is a strong showing for a debut novel and for a series, with characters that stand out against the backdrop of the world that is being created. I actually wanted to be critical about Shadow’s Son for cliche characters and setting, but it was done well enough that the faults were overshadowed by what I liked. The dialog is great and the action kept up its pace so much that my complaints were soon left in the shadows. While not the most original concept dealing with assassins, the shadow magic is unique. I only wish the author would have given us more glimpses of it being used. I want to know more about Caim’s powers and his search for his mother and I want to find out what happens with Kit and Josey as well. I suppose reading the sequel, Shadow’s Lure, will be in my future.