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Shadowblack by Sebastien De Castell
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Outlawed Kellen is wandering in the Seven Sands region with his mentor Argosi Ferius Parfax and his "business partner" squirrel-cat Reichis when they come upon another Argosi and her charge who are also being chased by bounty hunters. When they discover the Path of Stones and Roses' charge Seneira has the same shadowblack around her eye that Kellen has.

The Path of Stones and Roses, who is called Rosie by Ferius, is on the track of a possible shadowblack plague and so they take Seneira back to Teleidos which is a town in the Seven Sands that is famous for its Academy which draws the best and the brightest from all the countries in the world.

Once in Teleidos, they find that Seneira's younger brother and her betrothed also have caught shadowblack. They also find another outlaw named Dexan Videras who claims to be able to cure the shadowblack but needs to find the mage who cursed the suffers. Dexan also causes a conflict for Kellen. He offers to make Kellen his partner and teach him all that he has learned as an outlaw. But following Dexan means leaving Ferius behind.

Kellen is torn between his need to help Seneira and his need to find a way to be safe from the bounty hunters who are pursuing him. He also has to decide what he wants for his future instead of just living moment to moment and staying one step ahead of the bounty hunters.

I really enjoy the characters and the worldbuilding in this series. Kellen is a young man who is trying to find his purpose and learning about himself. Reichis is great comic relief but also has surprising depth. Ferius is the character who is the most mysterious, perhaps deliberately so, as she helps Kellen in his growth.

I can't wait to see what further adventures Kellen, Reichis, and Ferius have. ( )
  kmartin802 | Apr 11, 2019 |
Travelling with Ferius and Reichis, Kellen continues to battle his insecurities as he comes of age. When they stumble across what appears to be a shadowblack plague, they pause in their journeys to investigate.

Spellslinger was a high bar to kick off a series with. While Shadowblack is fun, it never quite matches its predecessor, at its best in its comic asides and episodes of squirrel cat belligerence, but I would have liked to see the same depth of world and character building that made the first novel stand out.

That said, Shadowblack is once again loads of fun - good for giggles and highly cinematic. Kellen remains a likeable narrator with a good heart, and both Ferius and Reichis are a delight to spend more time with. And because I like my characters spiky and unexpected in their ethics, Rosie intrigued me more than she was perhaps intended to. There's no such thing as your average Argosi, and that alone may keep me coming back for more.

Full review

I received a free copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. ( )
  imyril | Dec 19, 2017 |
Shadowblack carried on the story of the excellent Spellslinger, following Kellen as he journeys through the Seven Sands with Ferius and Reichis. Unfortunately, it wasn't the adventure that I had hoped for.

While the world building and magic system is still strong, it doesn't seem quite so unique now that the novel has moved its focus from the Jan'Tep. Most of the politics has been lost from the story and has instead been replaced by a disappointingly bland adventure story, set in world that feels vaguely inspired by the Wild West.

The novel largely ignores the direction that it seemed have been taking at the end of Spellslinger by not making much of an effort to either teach Kellen the way of the Argosi, or cure his shadowblack. It instead introduces a mysterious shadowblack plague affecting students at a prestigious university and devotes its time to finding out where this plague began. It really is a filler novel of the worst kind, barely developing the existing plot while existing purely to sow the seeds for the inevitable third instalment.

The characters were a bit of a mixed bag this time around. While Kellen is still likeable enough, he does not do an awful lot before the climax other than talk to people. This was problematic, as it meant that he spent a lot of time talking about things that the reader did not really experience. A good example of this is his shadowblack. Kellen talks about the debilitating pain and visions that it gives him, but we see little evidence of this.

I also found Ferius to be infuriating this time around. She never says what she is actually thinking, instead choosing to constantly spew faux-philosophical cliches that don't really mean anything. In fact, the female cast of this novel don't really do so well at all. While newcomers Rosie and Seneira seemed interesting at first, they also don't really do anything in the story. Rosie makes the occasional idle threat and Seneira cries and laments her condition (a lot). Ultimately, neither of them really played a role in the climax.

The one saving grace was Reichis, who is still hilarious. I wasn't expecting to like the squirrel cat as much as I ultimately did but he injects much needed humour into the tale. He also had a surprising amount of character development, making him one of the most complex characters in the novel.

So, ultimately, I was disappointed but I do still have hope that the novel can turn itself around. Hopefully, the next instalment of the series will be a lot stronger. ( )
  ArkhamReviews | Dec 14, 2017 |
I've never been a great fan of fantasy novels (with the exception of The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings), finding that the necessary world-building can get in the way of a good story.
However, I felt I was taken straight into the action in Shadowblack, the second in the Spellslinger series aimed at Young Adults, and I didn't have the benefit of having read the first book. I grew to like the main characters as the good hearts concealed by the bantering tone were revealed. Kellen, the teenage outcast trying to find his place in the world, is faced with several life-changing choices, and it is never obvious where these will take the story.
I was also interested by the tensions between nations and within the societies described, as well as the various attitudes towards those who were trying to change things.
Ultimately though, it is Kellen's story, and I found the conclusion surprisingly moving. ( )
  busylizzie2 | Sep 23, 2017 |
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Epigraph
The way of the Argosi is the way of water.

Water never seeks to block another's path, nor does it permit impediments to its own. It moves freely, slipping past those who would capture it, taking nothing that belongs to others. To forget this is to stray from the path, for despite the rumours one sometimes hears, an Argosi never, ever steals.
Dedication
To Doctor Sukanya Leecharoen of the Royal Angkor International Hospital in Cambodia, whose wit and kindness turned what began as an agonizing affliction into a strangely entertaining experience.
First words
'This isn't stealing,' I insisted, a little loudly considering the only person who could hear me was a two-foot-tall squirrel cat who was, at that moment, busily picking the combination lock that stood between us and the contents of the pawnshop's glass display case.
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A Shadowblack plague is taking hold. It's a few months since Kellen left his people behind. Now 16, Kellen and Reichis have developed something of a reputation for being able to kill unruly mages. So it's no surprise when a wealthy but desperate father asks for their help in hunting down the men who've blackmailed him by putting a deadly curse on his only daughter. But when Kellen realises the girl is showing all the symptoms of the Shadowblack, he starts to wonder if those same mages might be able to cure his own disease for the right price.… (more)

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