I picked this book up from Bristolcon last year after chatting to the author, who is an intriguing and strong personality. Question is – would I enjoy the book as much as I enjoyed our discussion?
For generations prophets have foreseen the birth of the Shadow Seer, the oracle of dark visions and fallen kingdoms. But by the time of Sorron, King of Carnia, their warnings have mostly been forgotten and his name is known only to a handful of scholars.
When disaster threatens the royal family, the Seer’s legends are brought to light once again by a witch named Mayrila. She believes that Candale is the fulfilment of those long forgotten prophecies. She believes that he is the Shadow Seer…
I’ve tweaked the back cover blurb slightly, as there is a spoiler there – and it was the unusual way the book started that snagged my attention and drew me right in. Jacobs is an experienced and skilful writer. I found the character of Candale immediately believable – it was a pleasant change to find a teenage boy actually behaving like a teenager, rather than a particularly self-assured twenty-something. He is riven by self-doubt, occasionally makes some silly decisions and spends a great deal of time obsessing about himself. Typical teenage behaviour, in other words.
However, Jacobs also manages to make him sufficiently sympathetic, so that I didn’t toss the book in disgust, as he also has a highly developed sense of responsibility and tries hard to live up to his grandfather’s high expectations. It was also refreshing to find a book about this age group that isn’t completely fixated on his relationship with the opposite sex. Because Candale has far more pressing problems…
The claustrophobic atmosphere of court life is well depicted, without Jacobs giving us pages of description about balls and council meetings. I liked the sense that Candale is never completely sure exactly who he can trust or not – a constant consideration for someone in his position. This isn’t a story with lots of swashbuckling action, rather a slow-burn, tension-tightening tale as Candale very quickly finds that he is flailing around way out of his comfort zone, and very reliant on a select circle of close friends and companions.
A lot of epic fantasy rapidly ramps the action up, so that the impact on the main protagonists sometimes gets lost in amongst the plethora of sub-plots, constant scene changes and large cast of characters. It was a real pleasure to read a classic Fantasy tale set in a medieval world that focused completely on a single protagonist right at the heart of the problem. Especially when in the hands of such a capable writer.
Inevitably, the book leaves our slightly clueless hero on the edge of a major dangling plotpoint – do I want to get hold of the next book and discover exactly is going to happen next? For sure – Candale and his problems have spun their spell over me… Track down this book and see if you, too, become ensnared in Jacobs’ engrossing fantasy.