Review: Shadowblack by Sebastien de Castell

shadowblack

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Author: Sebastien de Castell
Series: Spellslinger #2
Pages: 352

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It’s a few months since Kellen left his people behind. Now aged sixteen, Kellen is an outlaw, relying on his wits to keep him alive in the land of the Seven Sands. He misses home, he misses family and more than anything, he misses Nephenia, the girl he left behind.

Then he meets Seneira, a blindfolded girl who isn’t blind, and who carries a secret that’s all too familiar to Kellen. Kellen and Ferius resolve to help – but the stakes are far higher than they realise. A Shadowblack plague is taking hold – and Kellen can’t help but suspect his own people may even be behind it.

The first book of the Spellslinger saga surprised me greatly. I was even doubtful about considering it a Young Adult book. That is not the case with the second instalment, which delivers a much lighter story in the emotional plane; but without sacrificing the good humor and great characters I fell in love with. Let’s see into which kind of misadventures is Kellen leading us this time!!

As stated at the end of the first book, our dear Kellen is now an outlaw being hunted by the Jan’Tep. Thankfully, he has the help of the Argosi Ferius and the squirrel cat Reichis to keep him safe and sound. Or as sound as possible for someone who tends to get in front of danger more often than not. This time the group is journey through the Seven Sands, where they meet Seneira, a girl the same age as Kellen and with familiar dark marks around her eyes. Soon they learn that several kids are affected with the Shadowblack plague and it will be up to them to unravel the mystery behind it or die trying.

We are in front of a truly enjoyable book, where the pages fly quickly and the reader is kept in their toes the whole journey. The story is formatted in very short chapters that help immensely to the fast pace of the narration and its easiness-to-read, making it a fun experience for the reader. Sadly, it lacks the emotional punch that was displayed in the first book. It would have made the book perfect in the eyes of this reviewer. That aside, the author delivers a simple mystery surrounding a plague of Shadowblack that will keep you guessing until the end. A good story that is bathed with bucket after bucket of superb good humor. I love the wittiness and causticity of Kellen and the bloody remarks of the most dangerously huggable squirrel cat of the Continent. Laughing will be your most loyal companion during the reading and I couldn’t be happier about it.

Obviously,  there are much less world building than in the previous book. We change the explanations of the Jan’Tep way of living for the paths of the Argosi and small details about the Seven Sand cultural and political position. Getting to know more about the Argosi and Ferius lifestyle has been nice, but a bit confusing (I bet Kellen would agree with me). I guess it has been described that way on purpose, to mantain the mystery and mysticism surrounding that culture. I must admit that sometimes I was a bit frustated with the different ways and what is and what is not an Argosi, with somehow opposing views by Ferius and her sister, Rosie. It looks like there is still a lot to know about them, but they are not eager to share. Another bit of worldbuilding is the one about the Academy. As a center where kids from all the countries study together is a nice idea that has sadly been underdeveloped. I would have enjoyed to read Kellen attempting to forge a future in that place. I guess it could still happen…

This book wouldn’t be the same without the awesome characters that inhabit it. Kellen is pure joy to read. I fell in love with him in the first book and my loyalty for him is only getting bigger and bigger. It is remarkable his strength to keep his integrity even though fate has thrown in his plate a lot of shitty situations. The fact that he doesn’t lose his sense of humor even facing unknown dangers speaks loudly about him. Yeah, he is very lippy and I sympathize with Ferius and her patience with him, but that also brings to the reader awesome dialogs. I feel at home following these adventures from the point of view of Kellen. That is how confortable he makes me feel. And when we add Reichis to the mix, the whole deal gets deviously absurd… in a very good way. How can such a bloodthirsty creature make me smile so hard? It is weirdly endearing.

I have also to point out that this book hasn’t triggered me as much as the previous one with the smoking habit of Ferius. Yes, it is still there, but with much less presence. Thanks to that, I have been able to enjoy this story much more, even though is rather weaker due to its simplicity and lack of heartbreaking moments.

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2020 – Book Gallery

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As I have mentioned, this book is pretty easy-to-read even for a guy like me, whose first language is not English. And yet I have been able to highlight several new words to me. Among them, I have selected the one that will remain in my memory (or at least I’ll try to keep it there).

extol: to praise highly

That suits Reichis all right. Extolling his own exploits are on point of his behaviour.

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