I like to think of myself as a fairly harsh critic. I think I have an eye for good world building, character development, plot, etc. and I think I am very fair in how I assess different books perform at these various metrics. That being said, I have noticed an interesting effect when I read a certain kind of book. I find that I am much more forgiving, and much more inclined to give a good review, to books that give me a funny and happier tone. That is not to say that the books are without sadness and suffering, and that is not to say that I prefer books with lighter tones than darker. I just feel that if you are going to tell a story that is really depressing all the time, you have to really nail it or I am going to be harsh. On the other hand, as long as I am laughing and smiling you can pretty much get away with murder.
That being said, allow me to introduce you to Knight’s Shadow by Sebastien De Castell. This lovely book comes all the way from Europe, where the author originally published both it, and the previous installment. I believe the US version should be available shortly, but I feel that the UK cover art (on the right below) is worth ordering overseas for (cost me almost nothing extra).
Knight’s Shadow is the second installment of the Greatcoats trilogy, a story about a group of magistrates called greatcoats who are tasked with traveling the land, hearing the pleas of the people (great and small) and making sure the law is upheld. They are sort of like duelist lawyers if you will. In Sebastien’s world, the job tends to take the form of telling all powerful dukes to stop oppressing some lowly peasants. So as you might expect, the life of a greatcoat is not easy. What originally drew me to the book is it takes a lot of influence from Alexandre Dumas’s The Three Musketeers (which you should read if you haven’t). The book follows the travels of three specific greatcoats, and documents their relationship and trials. The books are laugh out loud funny, and the dynamic of the three greatcoats is honestly unmatched for me outside of the gentleman bastards from The Lies of Locke Lamora.
The first book was a fairly straightforward story of the three greatcoats setting off on a quest and trying to complete it. The plot was not the most original, but the hilarity of the dialogue and the genuinely likable characters more than made up for it and helped the book rise to one of my favorite series. I was surprised to see that Knight’s Shadow actually did a lot to make the book less cliche than its predecessor, while also maintaining the clever wit and great dynamic. However, while it made serious headway compared to Traitor’s Blade (book 1), it still is not taking home any awards for most original plot. In addition, the characters are little deeper, have better motivations, have been fleshed out better. On the other hand, this might just be because the book is much longer than Traitor’s Blade, and had more room to work with.
In the end, Knight’s Shadow’s major appeal still comes from the laugh-out-loud funny dialogue and the heartwarming characters that make you smile and cheer. The witty humor is kept fresh and fun throughout this second chapter of the story and helped me move past the few contrived and cliche moments. At the end of the day, the only way to describe these books is that they are simply a good time. If you are looking for something to make you smile, laugh (sometimes cry), and bro out then I recommend this book for you.
Knight’s Shadow Rating: 8.5