Douglas Smith’s Shadow of the Wicked takes place within a realm called Three Kingdoms.
Firstly, I was highly impressed with the cover design and map design, and the perfect formatting of the book. I believe this will appeal to fans of Game of Thrones or Wheel of Time, though I am not extremely well-versed in the genre. It does radiate an ‘epic’ tone in my opinion, but that could be the result of the larger themes at play and the sense that we are beginning in medias res. Instead of the usual ‘tour of the town’ approach in the initial chapter, we are presented with brief interlocking scenes in the third person which serve to construct the main threads of the book. The tone and behavior of the characters is established right away and the reactions to their respective situations provide the central premise.
The tale is told with fast-paced, tightly edited, modern fantasy, medieval-style writing, encompassing a Witcher-esque atmosphere, fraught with bandits and sorcerers and lots of ale-drinking. You will meet relatable characters with dark pasts and intertwined fates who tell a compelling story from the dual perspectives as the two protagonists. This setup depicts a conflict between brothers, set against a tempestuous political climate. Struggling through tortures and elaborate restrictions, it’s the character interaction which drives the plot, through which devices the worldbuilding is elaborated and adequate background is filled in amid the action.
I always enjoy exploring a unique and fascinating world, and the world building supplied here certainly qualifies. The variety and texture of the world is conveyed through detailed description that does not weigh the narrative down. It is entertaining and written in the manner of a quick-reading essential puzzle piece to a larger story. As a series, the other books will have to sustain a high level of tension and cinematic approach to storytelling, so that they do not seem watered down by comparison. There were fewer info dumps and internal monologues than I expected, which contributed to my enjoyment and the ease of reading. In terms of communication of ideas, this novella accomplishes its goals admirably, and will leave most readers craving further adventures.
I hope that the magick system is more thoroughly explained in the next installment, to add another fleshed-out layer to the story. But the author has begun a promising literary project.