The Shadow Saint is Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan’s second installment in the Black Iron Legacy epic fantasy series. Hanrahan’s first entry made big waves for its wealth of imagination, and book two builds off of that success with another inventive and engrossing novel. The story is jam-packed with wizards, saints, gods, and the undead. This was a great book—loads of fun!
There is a lot going on plot-wise, a lot of secrets, and information intentionally withheld from the narrative. For the most part, the various mysteries are compelling, but eventually, there are a few moments when the confusion is slightly overwhelming and detracts a little from the story. Many of the factions have sub-factions, and this ambiguity created a couple of instances where I had to flip back through the text to get things straight or just shrug off what appeared to be a minor inconsistency.
In the Shadow Saint, a new cast of characters step to the fore. Cari, Rat, and Spar are still around, and still involved in the plot, but they take a big step out of the limelight to make room for new blood. Eladora Dutton, Cari’s cousin, is the novel’s protagonist. I felt much more engaged with her than I was with Cari in book one. In fact, I think Harnrahan took a great leap forward in terms of characterization in general. Terevant, a Haithi second son, and wastrel trying to make good is also very likeable and interesting, with complicated relationships and motivations. The third major POV character is “the Spy”, a unique and mysterious role that kept me guessing throughout most of the book. All three main characters were vividly depicted, none of their scenes dragged, I loved them all.
Near the beginning of the denouement there is a misunderstanding that comes like a bolt from the blue and ends up throwing a huge monkey wrench in all the jockeying that came before it. I felt like the basis for this misunderstanding didn’t really add up, and it took me a minute to set it aside and get on with enjoying the book. To be fair…I really did enjoy the rest of the book immensely, but it was a bit of a stumble. I thought that the ending itself was very satisfying, particularly the final chapter, and set up a book three for which I am positively salivating.
Hanrahan’s vaunted creativity once again shines in The Shadow Saint. Gone are the alchemists’ Tallowmen, replaced by the Vigilant of Haith, a caste of undead warriors. Terevant’s story unveils a lot of interesting backstory and worldbuilding for the crumbling Haithi empire. The author’s take on sainthood is another well-imagined aspect of the world that is further developed in book two. Clearly, worldbuilding is one of the Hanrahan’s strong suits. The story is full of cool magic and monsters, which make for an enormously entertaining read.
Hanrahan is now one of my favorite authors. I flat out adore this series. Fans of high magic, chunky-boi epic fantasy novels should drop everything and bump this series to the top of their TBR’s. Five stars.