ARC was provided by the publisher—Tor Books—in exchange for an honest review.
Cover art illustrated by: Dan Burgess
In the Shadow of Lightning by Brian McClellan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Series: The Glass Immortals (Book #1)
Genre: Fantasy, Epic Fantasy, Flintlock Fantasy
Pages: 576 pages (Hardcover Edition)
Published: 21st June 2022 by Tor Books
Brian McClellan’s return to the epic fantasy scene is a good one, but it didn’t feel as explosive as his Powder Mage universe.
In the Shadow of Lightning, the first book in The Glass Immortals series, was one of my most anticipated releases of 2022. It has been three years since Brian McClellan concluded his Powder Mage universe series with Blood of Empire, the third and final book in his God of Blood and Powder trilogy. I have read the entirety of the Powder Mage universe, and since then, I have wondered what kind of series and world will McClellan create next. When I saw the cover art to In the Shadow of Lightning being revealed, the illustration done by Dan Burgess, my interest in it was sparked immediately. Plus, Brandon Sanderson, Fonda Lee, and James Islington (all three are some of my favorite authors) gave their praises for this book made me even more excited to read this. Sanderson even said this is McClellan’s best work to date! Unfortunately, I have to disagree with him. The book didn’t click as much as I expected it would.
The novel started with a super powerful prologue, and I was feeling incredibly positive that this would indeed be McClellan’s best book so far. But the compelling charm of the story seems to decrease quickly after the first 15% of the book. Demir Grappo is an outcast by choice—he fled a life of wealth and power, abandoning his responsibilities as a general, a governor, and a son. Now he will live out his days as a grifter, rootless, and alone. But nine years later, this is within the first two chapters by the way, when his mother is brutally murdered, Demir must return from exile to claim his seat at the head of the family and uncover the truth that got her killed. Demir must also find allies to help him accomplish this mission. As you can probably guess, a murder mystery is one of the main driving forces of the narrative. And was it done well? In my opinion, yes and no.
Here is my gripe with In the Shadow of Lightning. Everything just felt… okay. None of the stories, characters, or world-building, ever felt like they were poorly done. However, there was also nothing special about them. Outside of his urban fantasy novellas, McClellan has taken a break from traditional publishing for three years, I expected more out of him. And to put it simply, the biggest issue with this book is that the POV characters just felt so… okay. Again, they were there for the plot to move, but that’s about it. I never felt invested in any of the character journeys. There were no characters I felt interested enough to read about like Taniel, Ka-poel, or Ben Stykes from his Powder Mage universe. Baby Montego was the only one that I felt was great. I personally felt like the writing in this book tends to be put aside too quickly to my liking. For example, as I said earlier, the event in the prologue plunged Demir into becoming an outcast. The assassination of his mother’s understandably brought him back. But I never felt like he was truly remorseful or regretful about what happened nine years ago as he did in the prologue. Suddenly, he’s back in charge, and everything just moves smoothly because of his intellect and power. This is just one example out of many instances in this book.
The world-building and actions were the best parts of the book for me. The world in this novel still felt similar to the industrialized/flintlock setting of The Powder Mage universe. And the hard magic system, godglass, was reminiscent of Allomancy from Sanderson’s Mistborn. There are many types of godglass, and each godglass brought out different capabilities and power from its user: glassdancer. The creation and the usage of godglass were sections I highly enjoyed reading in this book. But then again, as I said, it felt like all the good things in this book never elevated to something more. In the Shadow of Lightning seems like a book that would be more enjoyable for those who haven’t read many epic fantasy books yet.
This review is shorter than my usual reviews, but I really have nothing to add than to repeat what I said at the beginning of this video. In the Shadow of Lightning is a good start to The Glass Immortal series. Although the second half of the novel did show potential for the sequels to be better, due to my lack of investment in the characters and the gigantic number of books on my TBR pile, I doubt I will be continuing with the series anytime soon. Do remember, however, that I wasn’t too much of a fan of Blood of Empire by McClellan, too, so there is always the possibility that I am on the unpopular side again. If you are a fan of Brian McClellan’s book, do not let my review sway you from giving this a try.
You can pre-order this book from: Blackwells (Free International shipping)
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