A squire, a royal hostage, and a princess walk into a courtyard. Sounds like the start of a medieval joke, doesn't it? But those three characters are at the heart of Khan's book. Thorn is a peasant boy purchased as a slave in a distant land by a man named Tyburn to be his squire. This man works for the House of Shadow, rulers of Gehenna. Since the death of her family, Lilith is now Lady Shadow and promised in marriage to Gabriel of House Solar. When her intended groom arrives, his retinue includes K'leef, a captive prince being held for ransom by Gabriel's father. Together Lily, Thorn, and K'leef must find the truth about who killed Lily's parents, who poisoned Lily's goblet at the betrothal feast, and who is rising the dead in the outlying villages. There seem to be enemies all around. What can three teenagers do?
If you enjoy fantasy stories set in worlds full of swords and sorcery, then this is your kind of book. Each of the six kingdoms specializes in a different sort of magic. Lily's land of Gehenna is a place of shadows and necromancy. K'leef's desert sultanate has fire magic. House Solar works with light. There are great druids drawing from the power of the natural world in Thorn's land. With poisoned rings, cursed masks, giant bats, zombies, and specters, this story covers a lot of ground in more ways than one. From the docks of Port Cutlass to the lands of Castle Gloom, readers will find a world filled with brigands, nobles, peasants, soldiers, secret passages, and magic. But the three teenagers may find that friendship is the greatest magic of all.
Besides being a good tale with lots of mystery and misdirection, Shadow Magic is also a coming-of-age story. Thorn is trying to find his father and keep his family together, learning how to navigate in a world outside the forest. Lily has to become a ruler at the age of thirteen and decide what is best for the kingdom not just for herself. And K'leef wants to do the honorable thing in each situation, even when others around him are plotting and scheming. All three are fighting against the restrictions placed on them by their roles in society - peasants can't befriend nobles, girls can't wield magic, etc. Those struggles are just as important to the story as the actual fighting with spells and weapons.
Highly recommended for readers who enjoy series like Harry Potter and Percy Jackson, middle-grades and up.
I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley.