Displaying items by tag: Shaun Paul Stevens

I went into Shaun Paul Stevens Servant of the Lesser Good cold, as I do with all SPFBO books, and in retrospect, I kind of wish I had looked at the description first. I spent the first few chapters feeling like I was missing something. This isn’t abnormal for fantasy; there’s a certain level of acclimation that happens as the reader engages with the world, but I felt like I was missing colors in a palette instead of pieces to a puzzle. I only realized after reading the book that this is a companion novel to Stevens’ 2020 SPFBO entry Nether Light, which was a finalist. Had I read that first, perhaps I wouldn’t have had that missing feeling. 

The story follows Mist, a young woman tasked with sabotaging the upcoming marriage of Mistress Talia to the Count of Brecht. Mistress Talia is preparing to play a particularly cursed symphony, while her daughter is something of a social pariah due to her visions of the future and devil-worshipping father. While the world feels right up my alley, I never connected with the main characters and so it all fell a bit flat for me.

I also feel compelled to state that the opening scene of the book might be triggering for some people as a young woman is restrained to a bed against her will and is left in peril…It made me feel uncomfortable and I’m not a squeamish reader. Do with that what you will.

Servant of the Lesser Good features some technically excellent writing. Apart from what I’ve mentioned above, I can’t fault the author’s ability to draw the reader into his world. This felt every bit as professional as I’ve come to expect from the very best of the SPFBO.

I will say I don’t see the comparisons to Sanderson, Hobb, or Rothfuss. To a small extent, I can see the similarities with V.E. Schwab and Neil Gaiman. The writing reminds me more of Peter McLean and Ed McDonald, which is absolutely not a bad thing as I adore the War for the Rose Throne books and the Raven’s Mark trilogy.

All in all, I enjoyed Servant of the Lesser Good, even if it didn’t immensely resonate with me. It was certainly an excellent entry point for me for SPFBO 8. 

Nether Light by Shaun Paul Stevens - Book Review 25, Apr

Having left their homeland of Krell, Guyen and his family have to make new lives for themselves. Struggling to cope with their refugee status and the prejudice he encounters, things become worse when the state takes him from his new home and looks to profit from his emerging talents.