Series: Spellslinger #2
(I have reviewed book 1 in the series here)
Author: Sebastian de Castell
The 2nd book in the Spellslinger series keeps that magic filled adventure that pulls plot twists out of nowhere while increasing the tension and adding a bit more western kick.
We left Kellen just after he decided to leave his home and follow Ferius Parfax, in hopes of learning the Argosi ways. Reichis, the sassy talking, squirrel cat is also in tow flexing his pickpocketing, lock picking and general petty theft skills right from the off. The action starts straight away, Kellen is a hunted man, his clan have put a warrant on his head and the group have to fend off the bounty hunters. All because his grandmother bound him in shadow causing the Shadowblack to appear around his left eye. This brings them into the path of an other Argosi and her charge (Seneira) who also appears to have the Shadowblack. Kellen feels an affinity for Seneira and his troupe end up accompanying the pair on there journey through the seven sands. The Seven sands is a vast desert that boarders the other warring realms. It also contains the Academy, a school for the best and brightest in all the lands, run by Seneira’s father which also seems to be suffering from an epidemic of the Shadowblack. We follow Kellen investigations into what is causing the Shadowblack, his frustration and Ferius not teaching him the ways of the Argosi, his discovery of new forms of magic sand his hopeless attempts to charm any woman. This is a great little adventure with some awesome twists thrown in.
Kellen as our narrator is far less whiny than in the first book, while still making ill advised teenage decisions he starts taking ownership of his life and stops blaiming the world for everything and this makes him such a more likeable character. He is awkward and funny and sweet and he wants so desperately to know who he is he lacks all subtlety which is endearing.
We also get to learn a lot more about Ferius and the Argosi, which was awesome. This is mainly through Kellen discussion with Rosie (or the path of rose and thorns to give her her Argosi name) who starts to teach Kellen the proper names for the various lessons Ferius has been trying to impart to Kellen. I enjoy Ferius as a character she is strong and fun loving, sassy and intelligent she is always watching and learning and assessing the situation. This gives her an air of mystery and aloofness, which is counterpointed greatly by Rosie who is stern and straight laced almost callous. It gives real insight into the Argosi without info-dumping.
The host of side characters are great each one feeling complete with glimpses of backstory which really fleshes them out. We encounter all kinds from Seneira and her school friends, Jan’tep bounty hunters and another Spellslinger, Daxan.
The Star of the show, again, is Reichis. He just has such presence. He really has some of the best scenes in the book. The fact that only Kellen can understand him doesn’t stop him and he never strays from his personal agenda. His comic timing is impeccable. The Bath scene is fantastically funny and sweet.
I found the first half of this book to be rather slow in setting up the overall plot. However, some of these slower moments were the best in the book. We really got to see the partnership between Kellen and Reichis grow as they bonded over silly things like butter biscuits, or the relationship between Kellen and Ferius strengthen as he learns more about The Argosi ways and she starts to teach him valuable life lessons, such as how to flirt. Overall, Shadowblack was an awesome mystery story filled with pockets of intense action. It is a filler book in the series most definitely but its a fun filler book that teaches us more about the characters and their different paths in life. De Castell is also just a talented writer, Kellen’s narration is just as natural as in the first book, it is engaging and flows in a very conversational way. I will definitely be picking up the next book to continue following this trio on their journey!