Review: The Shadow of the Soul

Posted: October 17, 2011 by in Books We Love (5/5 single_star) Meta: Sarah Pinborough, Horror

Admittedly, I am a fanboy of several things. Steven Erikson novels. Christopher Nolan movies. Jamiroquai. California Pizza Kitchen. The New Orleans Saints. I’ve recently added another author to my fanboy list. Sarah Pinborough. All of you readers will recall how I unashamedly squealed like a little girl in delight over Pinborough’s novel A MATTER OF BLOOD (EBR Review). I loved everything about it. Well I finally managed to read her sequel to that amazing novel, THE SHADOW OF THE SOUL (Amazon).

I loved it!

Pinborough’s The Dog-Faced Gods Trilogy is an odd melting-pot of genres and ideas. You get a gritty crime novel mixed with some Urban Fantasy. But don’t forget the strong Horror elements or the Science Fiction. This series pretty much mixes it all together effortlessly.

The story of THE SHADOW OF THE SOUL again follows DI Cass Jones. He’s dealing with the consequences of exposing a massive amount of corruption in his police precinct in London, as well as dealing with all of the personal fallout from the family matters from A MATTER OF BLOOD. As bad as things are for Cass, they get worse when an enormous terrorist attack cripples London. As he investigates the terrorism, he soon realizes that it may all be wrapped up in the otherworldly people he came into contact with in the previous novel.

The reason I absolutely fell in love with the first novel was its perfect mixture of ideas. It was like that recipe where you just happen to get every single thing perfect, and the taste of the dish created is so good you want to brag to all your friends and family about it. I had absolutely no idea how Pinborough would be able to follow up on A MATTER OF BLOOD. While THE SHADOW OF THE SOUL wasn’t quite as perfect as the first novel, it was still freaking amazing. For me, A MATTER OF BLOOD was an 11 on a scale of 1 to 10. THE SHADOW OF THE SOUL comes in at a 9.8 on the same scale.

In THE SHADOW OF THE SOUL Cass Jones sees that the world is in a bad way, but he always looks up to see where things are hopeful.

It all begins with the character of Cass Jones. He is so flawed and easy to identify with. He gets frustrated. Overwhelmed. He sees things that are wrong with the world and wants to fix them. He feels guilt for putting people in terrible situations. He also is very much alone in the world. All of this is presented to the reader with supreme ease by the author. At the same time Pinborough shows that in some ways Jones is not even close the best person in the world. The change in Cass from the first book to the second is readily apparent and completely natural.

The setting is also handled perfectly. London (not to mention the rest of the world, really) it going through a slow apocalypse of sorts. Life is tough. Situations for people are beginning to seem completely hopeless. The tone Pinborough writes into this novel is spot-on perfect. As Cass Jones begins investigating a series of supposed suicides, the tone is enhanced even further. Descriptions of everything from buildings to murder scenes hammer home the decay of the world. The weariness attaches itself to the characters, changing them even further.

I love the way Pinborough writes. I love the way she describes the world through the eyes of Cass Jones–he sees that the world is in a bad way (and that he himself is a mess), but he always looks up to see where things are hopeful. The pacing is terrific. The horror is frightening. Most importantly you never feel like anyone is safe which exponentially adds to the tension as the novel progresses.

Honestly I’m having trouble keeping my gleeful enthusiasm in check. I absolutely love this series. THE SHADOW OF THE SOUL, while obviously the middle book of a trilogy, does so many things right that all I want to do is read the next book in the series. This is the type of book (and series) I wish I could write, and am actively working towards that end goal.

This series is due to hit the US next year. If you don’t want to wait, import her novels from the UK. You won’t regret it. You may just become a complete fan like I have.

  • Recommended Age: 17+
  • Language: Tons
  • Violence: All sorts
  • Sex: Talked about but never shown in detail


  • Nick Sharps says:

    I went ahead and ordered Matter of Blood because of your review so it better be good!

  • William says:

    Well, if the sequel is that good, you can't go wrong with what's on the starter's menu. Like Nick Sharps, I've ordered Matter of Blood as well. One question, how fast is the pace of these stories?

    I've been (re-)reading a lot of Steven Erikson, lately, and now every other story I read just feels so… slow. With Erikson, something always happens, he never seems to lose his momentum. Most of the other stuff I'm reading gets me thinking “get on with it, come on!”. How's this book with regards to that?

    • My personal opinion (and you know how I unashamedly love these books now, so take how you will) is that the pacing is quite good. I think that like every book there are a few sections that read slower than others (mostly it will depend on your own opinion of side characters). But for the most part Pinborough does an awesome job of keeping things moving.

      I really hope the both of you like A MATTER OF BLOOD as much as I did. Her books are a lot like how I'd hoped R Scott Bakker's horror/thrillers were going to be…only he failed. Pinborough, in my opinion, knocked it out of the park.

  • William says:

    Well, as could not find a bookstore in the Netherlands who has the book in stock*, I've ordered it at (or is it from?) my local store. They gave me a 3-6 days delivery estimate, so when it has arrived and I've read it, I'll post my opinion (below the Matter of Blood review).

    * It seems to me that a lot of the books you are recommending are not available in The Netherlands. Such a shame. Most people here only get in contact with the mainstream books: detectives, the vampire series that shall not be named, Harry Potter, A Song of Ice & Fire and the ever growing oeuvre of Stephen King. Of course, you've got some dedicated book shops, but you're only going to visit them if you already like the genre. As I don't think Stephenie Meyer will ever attract any sane person capable of thought to the genre, it's massively underread and underrated here in The Netherlands.

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