Shadow’s Son (book, Jon Sprunk, 2010)
From SFX 199.
Jon Sprunk/Gollancz/ 288 pages/ £12.99
ISBN: 978 0575 09601 2
Hyper-assassin discovers magical lineage.
Much tub-thumping is displayed by Gollancz on the back of our review copy of Sprunk’s first book. “Are we not those who delivered unto you Abercrombie? Behold: Sprunk!” (We paraphrase). Fair play, Gollancz Debut folks, but Sprunk suffers by comparison; he lacks Abercrombie’s easy swagger.
There are similarities: revenge, conspiracy and a post-Roman Empire-ish fantasy world, otherwise Sprunk’s walking out the old ‘But I didn’t realise I was the scion of great and magical powers!’ plotline mated with ‘I am a super assassin!’
Caim’s the lead, a man with an invisible friend, a dark past, and darker talents. His parents’ death at the hand of some church-sponsored nasties propelled him into a life of murder, but he kind of enjoys it.
That’s a bit of a problem for the hawsers suspending our disbelief. Assassins, snipers, secret agents, they’re all a bit, well… special, in sociopathic kind of way. Caim’s cold-hearted one moment, getting all soppy the next. Then there’s the prose. Particularly when dealing with Caim’s paramour Josey, it gets very Mills and Boon, while throughout not only do we have trails of adjectives going up like firecrackers in every paragraph, some of them are real doozies. ‘Amethystine’ anyone?
Our antagonist is another sorcerer-assassin. Having a baddy as a dark reflection of our hero might have worked had Caim’s personality been better designed, but here gives the impression Sprunk has run out of ideas. Finally, the conspiracy is gripping, but feels like it takes place in something of a void.
To the good, the story moves quickly, and the writing becomes less overwrought as the climax approaches. Caim’s an engaging chap, wonky motivation aside, and he’s what keeps you reading.
Did you know?
Sprunk cites his joining of a writing group as the catalyst for success after ten years of lonely struggling. It must’ve worked, seven publishers have bought Shadow’s Son.