ARC received from the publisher, Orbit, in exchange for an honest review.
The Shadow Saint by Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Series: The Black Iron Legacy (Book 2)
Genre: Fantasy, high fantasy, dark fantasy
Published: 7th January 2020 by Orbit (US) & 9th January 2020 by Orbit (UK)
The Gutter Prayer had been constantly lauded as one of the best debuts of 2019. Hanrahan’s imaginative and extraordinary dark fantasy worldbuilding, as well as his unique voice, continued to impress in its sequel, The Shadow Saint.
The city of Guerdon itself remained the highlight of the story to me. Again, Hanharan imbued his writing with such an vivid and evocative imagery of Guerdon that it felt like a living, breathing thing. If you’ve read The Gutter Prayer, you would’ve known that Guerdon has undergone a marvellous transformation arising from the climactic ending of that book. New City has arisen on top of the old – beautiful, white and pearly marble towers, spires and bridges covered half of the slums of the Wash. And New City continues to shift and change as necessity arises.
I believe it is also important to highlight that although The Shadow Saint followed fairly closely after the events in the previous book, the main characters are not the same. Two of the three are completely new to the readers, being characters from different parts of the world. One is an unnamed spy who has an agenda which remained opaque for a large part of the story. The other, Terevant, is the second-in-line heir to the House Erevesic of the Haith who worshipped a death-god; death is not wholly permanent for these people. One the previous supporting cast, Eladora, who is the cousin to Carillion, is now a main POV character. The key cast of Cari, Spar and Rat from the previous book did not appear until about one third into the book. Similar to The Gutter Prayer, it took me quite a while to feel invested in the new characters. Fortunately, the narrative involving the spy and Terevant kept me intrigued as it gave me new information about the gods; the power of the Houses of Haith is so fascinating.
The key plot of this book is about the impending Godswar that is due to arrive on the shores of Guerdon, which is also now on the brink of a political upheaval. I was torn between these two dominant storylines. I loved all the worldbuilding around the gods and saints. Very much less so with the political intrigue. However, testament to Hanrahan’s writing and plotting skill, the story kept transforming as it progresses – getting better and better – as both major plotlines coalesce seamlessly when the paths of our three main characters finally collide. It was about slightly halfway into the book where it became really engaging and interesting for me. The climactic finale was exhilarating and explosive to say the least.
The Shadow Saint is an intriguing and fantastic continuation of The Black Iron Legacy. As all sequels should do, it built upon the world, escalated the tension and increased the stakes. It’s purely my lack of interest in any politics-heavy narrative that made me enjoy this instalment just a bit less than its predecessor.