Title: The Last Shadow Knight
Author: Michael Webb
Publication date: April 1, 2021
One Sentence Summary: Veron is a thief, until he tries to steal from a reclusive man and ends up training to possibly be the one person who can stop an invading king.
I am so glad I read this one! When the author contacted me for a review, I really wanted to read it because the description sounded like it was right up my alley, but I had my reservations concerning the way it was categorized. Fortunately, the categorizations were errors (they’ve been fixed), so I was more than happy to review it. And, like I said, I’m so glad I did! It turned out to be quite different from what I expected, but I really enjoyed it. It focused on what I thought it would, but it also really reminded me of the slice of life book The Dragon’s Banker by Scott Warren, which was about an ordinary man being charged with keeping a dragon’s wealth. In The Last Shadow Knight, there’s not a big focus on banking but on commerce.
Where Knights and Businessmen Collide
Placed in an orphanage by his father after his mother died, Veron ran away after his father stopped visiting. Now a street thief just trying to get by with his friend Fend, they run from the law and dream big. Until Veron’s life changes in a matter of minutes and he’s on his own again. But an encounter with an old man changes his life, and his destiny.
The daughter of Felting’s High Lord of Commerce, Chelci squirms under the tough thumb of her mother. With an adventurous spirit and the desire to learn to use a sword, she runs away, straight into trouble. But also into a life where she can be who she wants to be, as long as she keeps her secrets carefully tied up.
Brixton only has one wish: to please his difficult father, Karad’s Lord of Commerce. Brixton works hard, but it’s never enough. After receiving a top education from boarding school, he returns home, only to be under the scornful eye of his father as his dreams of working in finance go down the drain. Until a chance meeting and surprise friendship with a man he grows to hate delivers the opportunity of a lifetime.
The Last Shadow Knight really packed it in, and never once made it easy for the characters. There’s a lot going on for each of the characters over the several years this story spans, but it was also a surprisingly fast read. Or maybe I just enjoyed it so much that I couldn’t help gobbling it down.
I loved that this book focuses on three characters who are around the same age and who cross paths in surprising ways. Initially, they seem like disparate stories, especially since each of them is focused on attaining a different end. But I loved the ways in which their stories eventually intertwined. The only thing that bothered me a bit was how much younger Veron is than all the other characters who end up relying on him and how they instantly just trusted him. It felt like a typical YA thing, where a teenager is somehow better and brighter than an adult, but Veron carried himself so well that even I forgot how young he was.
The one thing that I didn’t like much was the pacing, especially in terms of how the book is split into parts. It felt a little uneven, especially as I came to the middle. The beginning takes a more day-by-day approach and then subtly shifts so time moves a little quicker. But, by the middle, years have been skipped over before the first part even ends. The second part has a much more even pacing as it doesn’t have any awkward time shifts. Of course, it did make sense why the time passed the way it did; I just wish the parts had been divided up a little differently to reflect the varied pacing. The end, though, was fantastic and made me really want to read the next book. Fates start to collide and enemies are made, and I just really want to know what happens next.
The Last Shadow Knight feels more like a character-driven story. They operate under the overarching story, but I felt they were written so well that I couldn’t absolutely see how they ended up turning out the way they did. Their stories, personalities, and goals all made sense and tie in well and I can’t wait to see how their individual stories work with the overarching story. I especially liked Brixton’s story arc as it was quite unexpected, and surprisingly thrilling to read.
What surprised me the most is that this is not a typical fantasy story. Certainly, there’s plenty of knight training and a looming destined battle, but it really focused on day-to-day life, especially for Veron. I was so surprised by how commerce-oriented this book was, but really ended up loving it because that’s one side of fantasy worlds that is never really explored. This one certainly explored it, and now I’m hoping for more fantasy like it!
Three Very Different Peers
The Last Shadow Knight is, undeniably, mostly Veron’s story. After all, he’s the one who trains to become a knight. But it also includes two others, Chelcie and Brixton. I love that they are major parts of the story, but I also can’t help wondering how, exactly, they’re tied into Veron’s story and the overarching plot. I love them, but I’m hoping for more clarity about their particular roles in future books.
Most of the story is told from Veron’s perspective. We meet him as a child thief who makes desperate choices that leads him to his fate. I really felt sympathy for him and wanted so much for him to be able to protect and care for himself. He’s smart and strong-willed, but also just an overall good guy. He cares about others, especially those who need help the most. Most of all, I loved how hard he tried to be good and noble, but the world forced him to lie and do unsavory things just to survive.
I loved Chelcie. She’s definitely a spunky young lady who is intent on doing what she wants, even if it means running away. What I loved most was how it took time for her to slough off who she was in order to fit in as someone she isn’t. As the daughter of a High Lord, she was expected to act a certain way and was used to certain comforts, but, when all that is no longer hers, she didn’t automatically adjust. It took time and I loved how natural it was, and just how well she grew up and matured. Chelcie is hardworking and determined, and I just know she’ll be quite a force in the story.
Then there’s Brixton. He was such a surprising character to me. I did not expect him to turn out the way he did, but I’m also kind of glad he did. Everything about his life was pointing him in that direction, and he really had little choice but to follow it. Manipulative and sneaky, he’s the perfect foil to Veron.
Traditional Medieval with a Twist
The Last Shadow Knight is set in the world of Terrenor and is mostly in the city of Karad. This is a medieval European-inspired world, but delves so much more into the inner workings of it than most other fantasies I’ve read.
As I mentioned, there’s quite a bit of focus on the business end. Instead of kings and queens maneuvering (though there is a bit of that as an invading king is trying to take over), it’s the high lords overseeing money and commerce. I loved every bit of it and especially loved how this book really went into how commerce, trade, and money operate. Somehow, it made the world more interesting and more alive. Or maybe I just loved that it didn’t involve court politics and intrigue.
Most of the story is set in the city of Karad, where Veron and Brixton are based. It’s a harsh city, especially for the poor. It’s easy for the nobility to screw over the people who cross them, even if they don’t realize it. But there are still some bright, friendly souls that help soften the edges. Veron evolves a lot over the course of the story, so it was wonderful to see all the sides of the city from his eyes as it helped paint a rather 3D sort of world. I could almost believe I was walking the streets and jumping from rooftops alongside him.
A Fantastic Spin on Traditional Fantasy
The Last Shadow Knight is, in many ways, a typicaly Eurocentric fantasy. There are kings, there are destinies, there’s even a sort of Chosen One. There’s knight training and dangerous creatures and an invading army. But there’s also a refreshing look at how a fantasy city actually might function. I adored how it focused on commerce. I also loved how strong and complex the characters were. It was wonderful to see how their pasts tied into their presents and futures in a way that made complete sense despite ow jarring it made the pacing. This was a surprisingly quick and easy read and now I can’t wait for the next installment.
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Thank you to Michael Webb for a review copy. All opinions expressed are my own.
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