Shadowblack by Sebastian de Castell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Series: Spellslinger (Book 2 of 6)
Genre: Fantasy, YA fantasy
Published: 5th October 2017 by Hot Key Books (UK) and 21st August 2018 by Orbit (US)
Enjoyable and engaging, Shadowblack was an excellent sequel which builds on the characters and the intriguing world they live in.
Spellslinger is shaping up to be another YA series which I could like very much. Similar to all the others in this subgenre which I’ve read and enjoyed, it is once again written by an author whose adult fantasy series was one which I loved. Sebastian de Castell’s writing style and brand of humour which I loved in his Greatcoats series came across really well into this one as well. The self-deprecating and mocking inner voice from the perspective of the main protagonist was evident in both Falcio (the main character in Greatcoats) and Kellen – even though both characters are totally different. I’m not saying that Kellen sounds like Falcio, not in the least, but their internal monologues have a wry sense of humour while respectively maintaining a voice that is distinctively his own.
I found the sequel to be an even more engrossing read than the first as the introduction of new characters and new places provided greater insights into the worldbuilding. The best part is that characters come first, and it was through their stories that we learnt more about the political landscape as well as the magic of the world. Given the title of the book, I was intrigued to know more about the magical curse known as shadowblack, which manifests in black inky patterns around the eyes those afflicted. Without giving anything away, the fast-paced plot of the book was not what I’ve expected and in my eagerness to know more, the pages just flew by.
Typical to most YA books, the story was written in first person perspective of Kellen, and as such his character development is the primary driver of how invested I would become. And the answer is – very much so. As a teenager, it is understandable that Kellen will be given to some level of immaturity and angst, but I liked how it was never dwelt on for very long. This was mainly due to his companions, the enigmatic Ferius Parfax, and the bad-tempered but hilarious squirrel-cat, Reichi. The way Kellen’s relationship with the two of them developed throughout the course of the series so far was probably the key in keeping me interested in the series. Not to mention that pretty much almost every time Kellen and Reichi end up in trouble, the action and banter between the two of them are imminently fun to read.
Even the new characters introduced in this book were well-written enough that I wanted more of them, but I think perhaps for most this might be last I’ll see of them. While in no way written as a stand-alone, the way the book ended gave me a feeling of closure as far as this part of Kellen’s life is concerned. What lays ahead will definitely challenge his growth further, and I’m excited to read more and partake in his future adventures.