The Shadow King by Alec Hutson
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
Series: The Raveling (Book #3 of 3)
Genre: Fantasy, Epic Fantasy
Pages: 506 pages
Published: 21st November 2019 by Alec Hutson (Indie)
A thoroughly wonderful classic fantasy story with a modern narrative.
The Shadow King is the third book in The Raveling series by Alec Hutson. Two thumbs up to Hutson for writing an entire trilogy that’s consistently very good and extremely well-polished in every aspect of quality. Considering that this is the last book in the series, there isn’t anything I can say in this review regarding the details of the plot, except that the story in The Shadow King picks up immediately from where The Silver Sorceress left off. I’ve mentioned that The Silver Sorceress felt like a setup installment necessary for The Shadow King to shine and oh my, it did. Hutson took every foundation and development—story, characters, and lore-wise—laid in the first two books, and he progressed every major character’s story with an utterly engaging narrative towards a cataclysmic and climactic finale; the story arc that began in The Crimson Queen reached a proper closure, and The Shadow King is a satisfying book that will leave you begging for more because of it.
“The book demands to be heard, but it cannot listen. It desires to communicate, yet it refuses.”
I also loved how much attention Hutson gave to the main characters of this series. Every major character receive an equal amount of spotlight; everyone has their own agenda, and although some cooperated to achieve a singular purpose, there were a constant looming thoughts in my mind that went “will he/she betray them?” throughout the whole book, and this heightened the sense of tension and unpredictability of the story direction. The plot and the character’s arc moves forward gradually fast, and I found the pacing to be superbly paced. The most welcome inclusion in this book, for me, was the section that showcased the origin of The Betrayer and The Raveling; this was done magnificently in one long chapter, and it imbued characterizations into the villains. We know the saying “history is written by the victor,” and upon visitation, it turns out that the terrifying truth that gives birth to all this palpable rage and vengeance ended up being more morally ambiguous and sorrowful than it is.
“What had happened over the last year had taught him many lessons, but two were of particular importance. The first was that sorcery was not by its nature evil. It was a tool – a dangerous tool – and while it could be used for wicked ends, far more important was the nature of the one that wielded it. A sword was much the same: it could be swung to take or to protect.”
One of the greatest benefits from having a proper groundwork attained from the previous two books is that Hutson was able to deliver an installment that’s brimming with actions and magic; I’m pretty sure the first quarter of this novel alone contained more action sequences compared to the entirety of the previous two books combined. To make things even better, Hutson writes incredibly gripping and vivid action sequences. Whether it’s close-quarter swordfights or sorcerous battles, I was completely captivated by the magical display of power that rained fire, lightning, and death from both avenues—the sky and the ground—of devastation. I did find that the final confrontations needed more pages for it to have a higher impact; the battle against The Betrayer ended too quickly in my opinion. However, this is just a minor nitpick; immersion-wise, I was undoubtedly hooked and compelled by the strength of Hutson’s narrative.
“She’d found that to be a widely shared experience among those who had achieved greatness – a life of ease and coddling did not often forge men and women capable of bending the world to their will.”
Once again, I’m enamored by Hutson’s prose. There’s a lot of things to love in reading The Raveling, but Hutson’s writing is easily the most dominant reason why I loved reading this trilogy. Just imagine Brian Staveley’s modern narrative giving soul to classic fantasy instead of grimdark, and that’s more or less what you’re getting here with Hutson’s writing style. The writing is relatable when it tells a theme of determination; it’s wise when it explores justice, kindness, and leadership; it’s all-consuming ruin when it conveys scenes of cruelty caused by sorcery and human nature. With so many ranges of tone reached, I can vouch that Hutson has one of the finest writing styles in the genre I’ve read so far.
“Not everyone has the temperament to be a soldier. Some people are too kind to imagine causing pain to others. It’s not a weakness, truly. It is a laudable thing.”
Every great thing I’ve said in my reviews of the previous two books is still applicable here. Honestly, I’ve been having one of the best reading months I’ve had in months, and I owe most of it to The Licanius Trilogy by James Islington and The Raveling by Alec Hutson. It’s truly a bittersweet feeling that I finished reading both of them now. The Shadow King is an outstanding conclusion to The Raveling trilogy—a classic fantasy series with a modern voice that’s terrifically written. Despite this book being a satisfying and conclusive installment, the entire trilogy also feels like a prelude series to something even larger. And guess what? I checked the author’s blog, there will be a new sequel trilogy titled The Cleansing, and it will take place five years after the end of The Shadow King! I couldn’t be happier by this decision; there’s still a lot of untapped potential in this world, and I’m very intrigued to see where Hutson’s imagination will take the story from here. Consider me one of the readers waiting eagerly for your next book, Hutson!
The Raveling: 13/15 stars
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