Shadow Of A Dead God
Shadow of a Dead God by Patrick Samphire
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Series: Mennik Thorn (Book #1)
Published: May 27th, 2020 by Five Fathoms Press
Copy provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.
A real page-turner; Patrick Samphire has crafted an excellent, mage-ical adult fantasy debut.
I am for the most part very wary regarding what I choose to read, and as such, I rarely read books that I have not heard a lot of good things about, with the exception of authors whose previous work I loved. Shadow of a Dead God by Patrick Samphire fell smack-bang in the middle of this category, with neither the author nor the book being known to me, but I was seriously tempted from the first time I read the blurb and it shows the importance of a well-written description. Still, I wavered until my co-blogger, Emma, said that she was also interested in this fun sounding book and ready to give it a shot, and I thought, what the hell, let me join in. I am SO happy I made that decision.
Meet Mennik: Disreputable, second-rate mage who has seen better days. Is a very loyal friend but doesn’t have many. Hasn’t had a bath for quite a while. Spends his days breaking curses, spying on cheating spouses and finding lost items. Snarky as hell, even funnier. Not too bad at sarcasm either. Probably the only mage in Agatos that is not power hungry and also the poorest. By a long shot.
Meet Benny: Shamelessly extravagant liar and career thief. Questionable planner. Loves the dark as people can not see what he is up to. Does not believe in money and deals only in favours, obligations, debts, and promises. Feels insulted by unpicked locks. Mennik’s oldest friend and also a loving father to Sereh (who has an intense creepy/scary vibe going, but that’s a whole new conversation)
When Benny calls in a favour, Mennik knows he can’t refuse. Favours are serious business to Benny and Mennik values their friendship. The part that’s not a problem is that Benny needs a curse lifted from an object. The part that is a problem though, is that the item is still in the possession of its owner. Who just happens to be one of the three excessively powerful high mages that control the entire city of Agatos and could end the duo and everyone they love with a snap of his fingers.
Benny grinned. “And with both of us together, how can we possibly fail?”
Aah, the best-laid plans of mages and thieves.
As you may have guessed, things go decidedly the opposite of according to plan and Mennik and Benny find themselves very much arrested for a theft they tried to commit and a gruesome murder they very definitely did not. If they cannot prove who framed them though, they will soon be leaving the land of the living via a quick meeting with the executioner.
What follows is a delightfully fun fantasy whodunit, that, if you’re anything like me, should grab your attention early on and never let go. Exciting and compelling story aside, one of the things that are always trickiest to pull off in fantasy is getting the humour right. It can easily kill an otherwise good story or similarly elevate it to great if done correctly, and luckily the author has achieved the perfect balance here.
There was nothing less intimidating than a bent-over, limping mage muttering, “Ow, ow, ow,” with every step. I was all about the look, me.
The characters are very appealing and distinctive, with Mennik taking center stage as the main character and non-traditional protagonist. I say non-traditional, as this guy is not the smartest, or most powerful or any other instance of the best, at all. But he more than makes up for it in many ways, including his dogged determination. And while Mennik and Benny are given the most page time, Benny’s daughter Sereh, Mennik’s sister Mica and the captain of the Ash Guard, Meroi Gale are all prevalent throughout the story and characters I would like to see and learn a lot more of.
As for the setting, Agatos is a richly detailed city that has a real-world feel, despite its obviously fantastical elements. Built on the ruins of many previous cities through the vast history of this world, it makes for a fascinating background. Whether it be the panoply of gods that the people worship or have worshiped or something as straightforward yet mysterious as the magic powered by the corpses of rotting gods, the author has built an intriguing playground for these characters and I can’t wait to explore it further. ‘Rotting gods’ you ask? Yep.
This was the dirty little secret mages didn’t like to talk about. We were earthworms, dung beetles, tiny, unnamed, crawling, squirming microscopic organisms of the godly soil. We didn’t have magic of our own. We fed off the decaying effluent of dead gods.
The single complaint I have is that some of the curse words in the book are words we use in everyday life, but their meanings are different in the book and the one that bothered me was Pity. My mind struggled with it and kept on assigning the meaning I know rather than how it was intended for the story and it was confusing. It was a minor issue though and did not really detract from my overall enjoyment.
I honestly did not expect to love this as much as I did, but Shadow of a Dead God delivered exactly what was needed to overturn my expectations and had me begging for more. When you write a down-on-his-luck, heart of gold, scrappy mage protagonist and add in some witty humour, fast-paced plot and easily accessible writing, and then wrap it all up in a magical murder mystery, it’s easy to see how the Mennik Thorn series is the start of something great. Yep, I’m officially a fan.