Review: Shadow’s Son
We had the very distinct pleasure of meeting Jon Sprunk and his wife this past World Fantasy (coincidentally both Jon’s wife and son have the same names as Steve’s wife and son). We had already heard a lot about him, and had emailed back and forth a few times. It was obvious we would like him, and we did. So when his book came out we were nervous about reviewing it. Jon is a friend, and this is his first book. Luckily we don’t have to hate on his book! It was a very fun book to read.
SHADOW’S SON follows the exploits of Caim, an assassin who does what he does to survive, not to mention he is really good at it. However that isn’t all there is to this anti-hero. His best friend, Kit, is imaginary. OK, not really imaginary, because she knows stuff, but no one can see her. She is a spirit. Also…he can wrap himself in shadows. Are you jealous yet? Jon does an amazing job of describing what happens when Caim disappears into the shadows. This is such a cool effect.
The plot revolves around a hit Caim agrees to do, just because it was his friend who begged him to do it, and then things start to go awry. For the first 2/3 of the book, Jon is very sneaky about the tone of the writing. It is very light, action-packed, and almost popcorn style. But in the last third Shadow’s Son gets quite a bit darker (We thought about making the obvious joke about shadows here), when Jon throws a major sucker-punch at the reader, however the book still retains its fast-paced and fun delivery. It seems like in order to keep the tone from a free-fall Jon only briefly touches on the traumatic implications instead of going full-bore into how the events affected one of the main characters.
We have heard a few people compare this to Brent Weeks novels. We are here to officially say, with emphasis, we strongly prefer this. Shadow’s Son is what we are looking for when we read about assassins. Assassins in a fantasy setting? Yeah it’s a pretty popular thing right now, and it’s hard to go wrong. Jon, however, goes above and beyond just doing it right. He does it right, and does it well.
One of the biggest reasons for this, is that Jon has some really great characters that are really easy to love (and hate), and care about. This is quite the feat considering the book is only 279 pages, so we don’t get to spend a lot of time with them. It’s a testament to Jon’s ability to give us good character development, and interesting characters with just as interesting motivations. Now…that being said, let’s get the caveat out of the way. Caim, the main character, is probably the most one-dimensional in the book. He is a very good anti-hero, and kind of hard to like, despite being uber-cool. Kit, his imaginary friend, disappears for a good chunk of the book which was disappointing. Josey started out very bland and then quickly took turn for the intriguing.
So how can we say Jon is so great with characters? His villains. They are magnificent! Who they are, where they come from, why they are doing what they are is fun to find out as we go along. They are all believable in their actions. They have depth and personality. They aren’t just knife-sport for Caim (though he does use his knives on a few of them). All of the villains are satisfactorily despicable and likable at the same time. Two thumbs up Jon.
As we said earlier, the page count is very low. We didn’t really expect this. The book could have easily been 100 more pages, and could have really benefited from 50 or so more pages of setting. Not only could the book have benefited from being a bit more lengthy, we felt it really needed it. The scale of Othir was lost on us (seems like it should be huge, but it seemed really small by its lack of description). The religion was underdescribed. We wanted more information to give a solid foundation for the world the Jon has created. The book currently is “Good”, but with that added depth, it could have been completely excellent.
The lack of description of the setting was offset somewhat by the extra description in the action scenes. There is an unusually clear and large amount of information that avoids bogging the scene down, and still creates a frenetic series of events. This book IS action.
The set up for the next novels is well done. We get some closure here in SHADOW’S SON, with obvious set-up for the trilogy.
The pacing, action, and characters are all well written, and really that is what the focus is on for this novel.
If this is an indication of what Jon is going to be having published, we are excited. We’ll read his stuff readily, every time. So should you.
Recommended Age: 16 and up. The book, for the most part is pretty light. And a teenager should be able to deal with the trauma that comes later in the book.
Language: We can’t remember anything terribly explicit. One word at one time.
Violence: Well, yes. Actually, there is. Quite a bit of it. Caim is an assassin, remember? Try to pay more attention next time.
Sex: There is one scene, but it is handled with the utmost of tact.
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