The fifteenth book I’m reviewing (geez, these things just keep going) is A Threat of Shadows, the first of the Keeper Chronicles series by J.A. Andrews. It’s another high fantasy novel, set in a medieval world populated by humans, dwarves, elves, dragons, wizards, and various mystical monsters. It also has the distinction of being, so far, the best indie novel I’ve read.
The protagonist’s hero and protagonist is Alaric, whose occupation as a Keeper enables him to have various magical abilities and a wide range of arcane knowledge. When Alaric’s wife Evangeline is bitten by a poisonous snake he embarks on a quest to find an antidote for her, which puts him in the path of a plot to resurrect a long-dead wizard of a wicked group called Shade Seekers.
In many ways the novel seems to follow several fantasy tropes that have been used to the point of cliché. Alaric is a quest in a traditional fantasy land, and he eventually becomes part of a traveling party with an old wizard, a gruff dwarf, an ethereal elf, a blacksmith, and a milkmaid. That trope, the diverse wandering fellowship, has been done many times before. However, without going too far into spoilers, this book turns the trope on its head in an unexpected and spectacular way. I’m always impressed by writers who can take the familiar aspects of a genre and do something new with them, and A Threat of Shadows does that especially well.
A major part of the book’s appeal for me was that it had a sense of wonder to it. I’ve noticed a trend with a lot of recent fantasy that the books sometimes take themselves very seriously. A Song of Ice and Fire, despite all that’s good about it, doesn’t have that sense of wonder. I don’t think the indie fantasy novels I’ve previously reviewed on this blog had it either. Books with a sense of wonder don’t try so hard to be gritty or realistic. They allow themselves to be playful, to do impossible things because impossible things are fun. The Harry Potter series is an especially prominent example of this. So is Piers Anthony’s A Spell for Chameleon of the Magic of Xanth series, but I strongly disliked that one for other reasons. Many fantasy novels written for children or young adults have that playfulness. I would not say that A Threat of Shadows is aimed at children or young adults (though it doesn’t have anything that would lead most parents to prohibit it), but it still has that playfulness and wonder.
A side-effect of that playfulness and wonder is that the characters occasionally benefited from having just a little too much luck in their quest (which, as the story progresses, shifts from healing Evangeline’s wife to preventing the return of the villainous wizard). In another book this might bother me, but in this case I’m okay with it. The writing was also very good, mostly without any grammatical or formatting mistakes.
To wrap this up, I would definitely recommend this book to fans of fantasy. If you’re into anything from J.K. Rowling, J.R.R. Tolkien, George R.R. Martin, Terry Pratchett, and so on, you’ll most likely enjoy this book.
And now once again, the plug. If you liked this book review, you can see my others here: New Book Review 1–New Book Review 2–New Book Review 3–New Book Review 4–New Book Review 5–New Book Review 6–New Book Review 7– New Book Review 8–New Book Review 9 –New Book Review 10–New Book Review 11–New Book Review 12–New Book Review 13–New Book Review 14