Shadowmancer is one of those dazzling fantasy novels that takes your breath away effortlessly, while weaving you into a magical world unlike anything you've ever known before. It has heart, fire, strength and the power to sweep you off your feet without you even noticing. I loved every second of it. Although Devin Harnois is a new-to-me author, I'm eternally grateful to Shadowmancer for introducing me to a new amazing author, who I'll be eagerly reading more of in the future.
Marius is a shadowmancer on the run from the Queen of Shadows, who kidnapped him from his human life, instilled him with shadow-magic and has consistently altered his memories over years of torture, until he can't tell what is real and what isn't. This part of the story just blew me away. It's so original and so clever. And not once did Harnois fall into the trap of forgetting about it. At small, inconsequential moments, as well as during the bit battle at the end, Marius was constantly and doggedly hounded by fleeting, confusing memories. The way it affected his magic was consistent and so well written that I didn't always see it coming.
Then there's our other MC, Ayodele. A mage of vast power who left one the greatest and most feared mage guilds in the land, to protect his homeland. Despite having left it at a young age, he abandoned power and prestige to return home and protect his family. His strength of self-worth and self-belief are incredible to see in someone so young, who is also carefree in his happier moments. I love that he was the strongest of the guild, yet he didn't lord it over the other members he had tried to recruit. He went against the grain, to prove that mages are more than money- and power-hungry tormentors. The way he treated Marius showed his true colours, time and again, proving what a tender heart he had behind the strong facade.
The secondary characters were just as wonderful. Kiran and their open love of research and knowledge; Solon and his staunch protection of the guild and resistance towards shadowmancy; Varinia and her inner strength and the way she mothers the group; then Nadia, who protects them all and takes care of the emotional and mental wellbeing of the guild. Each one was a treat, each one was individual and well explored within the pages of the book. No one was cast aside or ignored, in favour of the main characters and, when it came to the final battle, I loved seeing that everyone played an important part.
Overall, there wasn't anything I didn't love about it. From how vulnerable and sweet Marius is, so ardently protective of Ayodele, to the way that Ayodele takes care of him in return and helps him understand that just because his magic is dangerous that doesn't mean he is too. I loved the subtle, uncluttered world building; the explanations of magic and how the guild works; the character backgrounds and histories with each other; and how all of it was given not in info-dumps but exactly when and where we needed to know about it.
I can't wait for Tempest, the next book in Paladin Charm, to see where this series will go and where the characters will take me next. And I'll be reading more from this author very soon.
“This was the man spreading fear through the land? He was more like a starving puppy.”
“He's sure to be a heartbreaker. If dark and mysterious was your type, and Ayodele was starting to think his just might be.”