Harold is a charming rogue with a healthy disinterest in heroics who against his will has to try to save the kingdom by stealing a magical horn from deep down an ancient dungeon. It sounds like a cliche but its refreshingly done in a novel way. This is the catching first novel in a trilogy I am happy to have received for review from Simon & Schuster. In fact I wish I could read Russian, so I could read the whole series now, no offence to the translation.
After centuries of calm, the Nameless One is stirring. An army is gathering: giants, ogres and other creatures joining forces from across the Desolate Lands, united for the first time in history under one black banner. By the spring, or perhaps sooner, the Nameless One and his forces will be at the walls of the great city of Avendoom.
Unless Shadow Harold, master thief, can find some way to stop them.
Epic fantasy at its best, Shadow Prowler is the first in a trilogy that follows professional thief Shadow Harold on his quest for a magic Horn that will restore peace to the kingdom of Siala. Accompanied by an elfin princess, ten Wild Hearts – the most experienced and dangerous royal fighters – and the King’s court jester (who may be more than he seems .
Format & Information
This is the first book I received for review.
Published by Simon & Schuster UK, April 2010
Format Trade Paperback, 400 pages
Translated by Andrew Bromfield, who translated Sergei Lukyanenko’s Night Watch series
The world Alexey Pehov builds feels refreshingly new. The story takes place in the border lands of the civilized world. It starts in the capital city before they head out towards an ancient dungeon/burial ground and all parts have their own story, their own background, their own history and it all feels interesting and fits well with the story being told.
The history of the world has elements familiar to fantasy readers. The first race were the Ogres followed by Orcs and Elves before the lesser races of gnomes, dwarfs, humans and such came along.
This is also a world where the gods sometimes walk among ordinary men. Alexey pulls off the god of thieves mysterious yet helpful appearance in a believable and intriguing way.
The story is told in first person by the thief Harold. He is commissioned to heist an item from a local aristocrat. He doesn’t know he has been lied to and that it is only a test to see if he is the right man for the job. He is then blackmailed against his will to take the most dangerous and potentially legendary commission in his life, to steal the Rainbow Horn from it’s resting place deep down Hrad Spein, a long abandoned dungeon now occupied by denizens of the dark.
Before he can leave though he has to sort out a few personal problems, like the local Thieves Guild wanting to kill him for not joining, being accused of stealing a horse by this and that murdering group, and a demon in need of a thief. He also has to enter the forbidden city, an area of wild magic that has been sealed off from the city, and retrieve a map of Hrad Spein for his mission. Along the way he also picks up a hitchhiker.
The Nameless-One has been biding his time for centuries, building armies and he is now prepared to strike and unless Harold can retrieve and recharge The Rainbow Horn, a legendary item that keeps the Nameless-One from entering this land, he will attack and sweep trough the border lands coming springtime.
There are also hints of another mystic antagonist simply called The Master I am sure we will see more off in the upcoming books.
Previous expeditions to the Hrad Spein has simply disappeared with only one returning survivor driven mad by what he experienced. So this time the King decides to send a small group of Wild Hearts soldiers, a thief, an elfish princess and a gnome jester in the hope they will have more success.
I like the characters in the story a lot, and Alexey makes it easy to do so, they all have quirks or traits that makes them interesting and believable. Yet they don’t fall into stereotypes. Elves here have fangs and are not airy ethereal wisps for example. The Wild Hearts are an elite band of unruly soldiers all with distinct background and a lot of friendly banter. Kli-Kli the Gnome is really annoying as I am sure is the authors intention, but he also seems to be much more competent than he tries to appear.
Shadow Prowler is a fresh take on high fantasy about a colorful and charming Rogue, with exceptional skill and a healthy interest in avoiding heroics, blackmailed into saving the kingdom and maybe the rest of the world. This is the first translated novel in the Chronicles of Siala by Russian writer Alexey Pehov and I can’t wait on the next books in the Trilogy Shadow Chaser and Blizzard of Shadows. I would like to recommend this book to all readers of fantasy especially if you like a good high fantasy adventure.