Book Review: Rise of the Shadow by Michael Webb

book review rise of the shadow michael webb
rise of the shadow michael webb

Title: Rise of the Shadow (The Shadow Knights Trilogy #2)

Author: Michael Webb

Publisher: Whatup Publishing LLC

Publication date: December 1, 2021

Genre: Fantasy

One Sentence Summary: After losing everything and becoming enslaved, Veron works only to protect the people he cares about, but his master’s daughter catches his attention and his enemies loom on the horizon

Warning: May contain spoilers for Book 1: The Last Shadow Knight.

Overall

Rise of the Shadow is the second book in The Shadow Knight Trilogy and continues to follow Veron (the shadow knight), Chelcie (a lord’s daughter), and Brixton (the son of newly risen Baron of Karad with thanks to Veron’s mortal enemy King Bale). While it doesn’t completely evade the middle book syndrome, the second half of this book made it all worth it. The characters all shone just as brightly and the bit of romance was sweet and natural. There’s still the same excellent world building done through the focus on business, commerce, and economics instead of court politics and soaring castles. Overall, Rise of the Shadow was a delightful second book, an excellent link between the beginning and ending of the trilogy. It wraps up the ending events of the first book and sets the main characters on their different paths for the third book.

Extended Thoughts

Rise of the Shadow picks up where The Last Shadow Knight ends: with Verson basically enslaved, Chelcie newly returned home, and Brixton established as the son of the new Baron of Karad. Veron only wants to do his work in Chelcie’s family’s household to protect the lives of the people he listed as collateral, but his sense of duty tangles his life with Chelcie’s. Thanks to a jealous servant, their blooming romance is nipped in the bud, and Brixton unexpectedly becomes tangled with Chelcie’s family. But Brixton has his own secrets, ones that could both destroy Felting and bring Veron in arm’s reach of his destiny.

The Last Shadow Knight was such a pleasant surprise that I couldn’t wait for the second book. I love that, instead of sweeping battles and stories of destiny alongside traveling around the world, this story focuses in on the city level especially in terms of business. It’s refreshing and offers a new take on fantasy.

My favorite part of this book is the characters. They were exactly as I remembered from the first book and, while there wasn’t a ton of growth, I loved how they became to entangled in each others’ stories. I am disappointed the characters didn’t mature as much as I had hoped they would and the romance came on a little strong during the first half. But I did like that the romance felt more natural and it was really fun to watch them dance around each other. Bale, though, was excellent. As the king terrified of Veron being the one to kill him, I loved how he was wrapped up in his need to find and eliminate him to the point of obsession. It was brutal, but I really enjoyed how it depicted a powerful king seemingly teetering on madness.

Veron, as always, is incredible. Despite his beginnings as an orphan and street thief, he has a strong moral compass and an equally strong sense of duty. He always strives to do what’s right and works hard without seeming to expect or want anything in return, though he’s often quite lucky. While Chelcie may have blinded him a little, he really has a great head on his shoulders. He’s a huge pleasure to read, especially as the reader really gets to know his struggles and the fact that his destiny is still hanging over him. He’s overall such a good person it might come off as annoying, but I felt his good heart really overcame that. I really enjoyed his story in Rise of the Shadow since he was enslaved, and I couldn’t wait to see how he would manage that and somehow get out to fulfill his destiny.

Chelcie was quite a fun character, going toe to toe with her dominating mother as she tried to find her purpose in life. I really liked that she wasn’t a typical female looking to marry well. After her years of living in the words and becoming part of the village’s watch, she’s quite capable. It did make some of the things she went through a little less believable because I was expecting her to be a bit stronger, but I really enjoyed that she’s still stubborn and determined to do what she deems best instead of what someone else wants her to do. It does get her tangled in a bit of a web, but her heart of gold helps shine her way and now I’m dying to see what the third book has in store for her.

Brixton, as manipulative as he is, has weirdly become my favorite of the trio. Whenever I thought I understood him, he flipped things around so I wasn’t sure if I could trust him or not. At his core, he’s just trying to gain his father’s favor, but he’s such an excellent actor that I never really know what’s going on with him. I was sorely missing him during the first half as it was more about Veron and Chelcie, but, during the second half, he was quite a force! I loved everything about him, how he made the story twisty and kept me guessing. I don’t know if I’ll ever pin him down, but I really love that about him.

Not only does Rise of the Shadow present wonderful characters, but the story is just as much fun to read. While I didn’t feel the first half evaded the middle book syndrome, I thought the second half more than made up for it. The first half seemed mostly centered about Veron finding his way in Chelcie’s family’s household and his romance with Chelcie herself. I enjoyed how the other servants looked down on him as he’s basically enslaved and how many just tried to destroy him. At the same time, knowing what he’s destined to be and do, I felt a little frustrated because there seemed to be no out for him and he just kept getting himself tangled further in the household. There’s definitely glimmers of what might happen next, but I couldn’t shake the feeling Veron felt a little too comfortable with his new lot in life. Then the second half hit, and never really stopped hitting. It really made up for a weaker first half and had me flying through the pages, desperate to know who to trust and what was going to happen next. There were so many twists and turns and new revelations. While the first half made me wonder how the characters were possibly going to get to the conclusion of the trilogy, I had no such questions by the end of the book. Instead, I can’t wait to see how it all plays out. I do wish there had been more of a clash between Bale and Veron, but I’m also glad it was minimal because I think the finale will be that much more epic.

What really separates this trilogy from most other fantasy stories is how it focuses on the world building. This series, by far, has my favorite way of exploring a new world: through business, commerce, and economics. Instead of a confusing mass of court politics, though this book did have some great gems of it, it’s really focused on how cities are run, how business is done. Even though I couldn’t really say what these cities looked like, I still felt like the book transported me there. It’s different and unique and really kept my attention. Even though I don’t care for numbers, Rise of the Shadow made me appreciate it and how it impacts world building that much more

Rise of the Shadow is an excellent sequel to The Last Shadow Knight. It’s a great way to get from Book One to what I hope Book Three will bring even if it didn’t completely manage to evade the middle book syndrome. The second half really packs it in and the first half perfectly set up that second half. Not quite as full of business and adventure, it does have me dying to know how all the threads tie up together and how the Dream given in the first book will actually play out. Overall, I found this to be just as enjoyable as the first book and have no doubt this trilogy will be one of the standouts in fantasy for me for a long time.

How many cups of tea will you need?

4 cups

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Thank you to Michael Webb for a review copy. All opinions expressed are my own.

Head over to the Bookshelf to check out my reviews of books from the Big 5 and self-published, indie, and small press books.

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