Book Reviews

Review: As the Shadow Rises by Katy Rose Pool

This sequel to There Will Come A Darkness expands on the world and raises the stakes dramatically!

Book: As the Shadow Rises by Katy Rose Pool

Publication date: 3rd September 2020

Ownership: Review copy sent free of charge by Orbit Books. All opinions my own.

Content warnings: Violence, death, murder, and injury; blood magic/necromancy involving using others’ blood and life force; discussion of suicide; depiction and discussion of drowning; non-consensual use of mood-altering drugs; magic including using others’ life force; grief and death of loved ones; references to physical and emotional abuse of children in past.

The Last Prophet has been found, yet he sees destruction ahead.

In this sequel to the critically-acclaimed There Will Come a Darkness, kingdoms have begun to fall to a doomsday cult, the magical Graced are being persecuted, and an ancient power threatens to break free. But with the world hurtling toward its prophesized end, Anton’s haunting vision reveals the dangerous beginnings of a plan to stop the Age of Darkness.

As Jude, Keeper of the Order of the Last Light, returns home in disgrace, his quest to aid the Prophet is complicated by his growing feelings for Anton. Meanwhile, the assassin known as the Pale Hand will stop at nothing to find her undead sister before she dies for good, even if it means letting the world burn. And in Nazirah, Hassan, the kingdom-less Prince, forms a risky pact to try to regain his throne. When the forces of light and darkness collide in the City of Mercy, old wounds are reopened, new alliances are tested, and the end of the world begins.

I’ve been reviewing so many sequels recently, you’re probably bored of the disclaimer, but as usual, it’s next to impossible to review a second book without spoiling who’s still alive at the end of the first (although, in this case, with necromancy in play, that doesn’t mean as much as it could!). Still, I suggest that if you’ve not yet read There Will Come A Darkness and you want to go into it cold, go and do that before you read this; let my review tempt you if you’re on the fence! I’ll do my best to keep things as spoiler-free as possible.

As the Shadow Rises picks up a little while after the events of the last book, and where our five viewpoint characters had started to come together a bit, they’re largely split up again now, and everyone’s on the move. I reread the first book immediately before reading this, and while everything felt very clear there, in this book I struggled to keep track of what everyone was actually doing and why. Jude and Anton, particularly, seemed to float around for quite a while until they were needed to rejoin the main plot. I think overall, although the stakes are higher here for pretty much everyone, I felt a little less invested in their characters because of it – in the first book the balance between angst and capability was perfect for teens biting off slightly more than they could chew, but here their prophecy problems are so huge, it made their personal problems look a little petty in comparison! I wanted to shake a couple of them out of their moping more than once. That being said, I really liked how Beru’s character was fleshed out, and I thought the side characters that were added or given more page time here really helped the POV characters shine.

The last third of the book is thick with double-crosses and disasters, and it really pulled things back on track for me. There’s evil priests, difficult choices, learning of ancestral secrets and of course, quests for a variety of mystical artefacts – all classic fantasy stuff, spun into a very modern-feeling world. This series works best, I think, when the pace is furious and the drama is high – and it is very enjoyable save-the-world stuff. I hesitate to call it ‘light’, because some of the subject matter is quite bleak (this isn’t a cosy read at all!) but it’s light in the sense of not-dense, I suppose. This sequel, more than the first book, feels YA in tone and execution; as I mentioned before, this is sold as adult in the UK but YA in the US, and it does have plenty of crossover appeal, but compared to some of the really intricate adult fantasies Orbit have been producing recently, As the Shadow Rises does feel a little skimpier on the wider worldbuilding, politics, and description. It’s an action movie of a fantasy novel – which is not a criticism at all! I’m just trying to be clear that it stands more on the YA end of the scale, which surprised me after the previous book seemed to be leading somewhere more akin to those chunky, multi-layered fantasies.

Middle books of trilogies are almost always strange beasts; they have to do a huge amount of work in developing the characters and the plot, but by nature they have to be a little bit unsatisfying on their own, as they’re still in the getting-there part of the story. I’m confident that the third book, which is just out, is going to be another high-stakes, gripping adventure, and the trilogy as a whole should be a fantastic place to start a high fantasy obsession – I’m starting Into the Dying Light straight away, so hopefully I can report back soon! Four out of five cats.

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