reviews

Fatal Shadow (Champions of Fate #1) by Noel Coughlan

Write on: Mon, 19 Sep 2022 by  in SPFBO 8 Read 218

This is my fourth SPFBO review, which was a good one, “forcing me to power through it. This was another author I was unfamiliar with, despite his publishing books since at least 2014. Of course, one of the joys of SPFBO is being assigned authors instead of choosing, as most of us tend to stick with what we know. Of course, not getting to choose your books can go belly up, but I have to say, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the books I’ve gotten. Anyway, back to Fatal Shadow.

The story revolves around Drinith, an ousted queen who lives on the run. She is protected by a disparate group, none of whom seem to like or even trust each other, and each has their own motivation for their role. This, of course, is kept from us initially and slowly unravelled, but not unveiled until near the end. Even the most loyal, Quiescat, wants to relinquish his power of premonition even though he can use it to protect the Queen. However, Drinith needs these guardians, as she is pursued by a cult of assassins. These are no ordinary killers as five are sent, and as one is bumped off, the next one will have absorbed the previous assassin’s strength - nice idea. 

The world-building is excellent. A planet torn apart between two suns, with a void separating its two continents. How does one travel between the lands? Well, dragons of course. Big-ass dragons kitted out as ships. Another nice touch is how they handled the deceased, tossing them into the void to a litany of odes and regret. The cities are not too different from the ones we know, with the obviously affluent separate from the seediest of slums. Drinith finds allies in both, much to her surprise, but even so, there is an element of doubt as to motivation.

The politics are very much on display here, which makes sense in a novel like this. In the city where the bulk of the novel is set, the ruling class, being, er, civilized take part in duels as opposed to full-scale battles. Each lord or lady would have someone to do their duels for them. These would be utterly devoted to their liege and would give their lives to protect them. In a world like this, those lives can be short. These were probably my favourite part of all the impressive worldbuilding.

 

In case you can’t tell, I really enjoyed this story. It was interesting, kept us on our toes throughout and just when we thought we had it figured out, something else would happen. If I had one complaint, it got a little flabby in the middle when the politics drowned out the real plot, but this is minor as it got back to business soon enough. Overall, this was definitely my kind of fantasy and I found myself intrigued throughout. I feel like this is the kind of novel that slips under the general indie fantasy radar and should benefit from the exposure that being an SPFBO contestant can bring.

Al Burke

Al has written, among other things, a fantasy novel, theses on morality and freedom, a hell of a lot of book reviews and covered football (as in gridiron) for many years. He's a fan of philosophy, mythology, and generally anything considered nerdy. He also writes book reviews on alwroteabook.com.