It's a unicorn gang review! Sara and Fantasy Living join the Mason Thomas reading party! (My 2 cents below):
3.75- 4 HEARTS
--I jumped at the chance to review The Shadow Mark
without even reading the blurb. Why? Lord Mouse
is one of my favorite reads last year (my review
), and Mouse is hands down one of my fave characters written. What drew me in was the adventure, the fantasy based world Mason Thomas created, the snark and wit.
And of course, Mouse.
If you've read Lord Mouse first (it's not necessary, it can be read as a standalone), you know the snark is heavy. Mouse demands attention with his very being. He's just that type of personality.
That is not to be found in The Shadow Mark
Auraq was a soldier with a lot of promise. Now he's living on edges of society due to being accused of murder. One night, his solitude is interrupted by a pair of small townsmen. The younger of the men, Kane has mysterious magical marks that attract the wrong attention, assassin attention. Upon a dying man's oath, Auraq ends up being Kane's protector and bodyguard while they try to search for answers to the mysterious marks.
It's a mostly fast paced adventure full of backstabbing characters, killers and fighting.
A captivating read from start to finish, though I'll have to say the second half outweighs the first half.Where I find this author flourishes
: action and suspense
- Thomas is clearly a gamer and it shows. He knows how to set an action scene, make it impactful enough. I appreciate sword fights, especially well-written scenes. Thomas thinks out the swing, the lunges...it's great to read. Weaving a tale, keeping the suspense and action turned up high!
Where there is improvement
- Though I read an ARC, the tale in Shadow Mark
is definitely more linear than Lord Mouse. Less time jumping which made a smoother read. Now as to a personal enjoyment, the fantasy is stepped up in Shadow Mark. The vocabulary read less modern compared to Lord Mouse (I don't mind either approach TBH)Areas for improvement
: The story is told mainly from Auraq POV, so his 'love' interest Kane and his attributes are told from Auraq. Auraq is tight-lipped and his 'romantic' feelings are definitely buried way, way, waaay deep. There wasn't much to go from since Kane was introduced as an annoyance and someone who was told to wait here and there, while Auraq took care of the grunt work. Kane could have been more even from Auraq's POV. He's introduced as young apprentice, didn't seem on much consequence. And he seemed like the means to an oath, not much a character with depth. Then the second half happened, where a romance sort of happens in between the mystery unfolds.
The romance is secondary in stories Thomas has presented so far. But I feel the initial reaction of Kane didn't wear off until way late. Just a glimpse or inkling more of Auraq's feelings would have made more of an impact for me. I'm fine with mere kisses, but the relationship goes from 0 to 100% and I'm still having difficulties buying it.
I live for tight-lipped heroes, especially ones that are not demonstrative. Auraq took that to an extreme. His protectiveness was palpable, it's what warmed me in the end. But the romance...it needed some work.Readable?
But if you're a reader who needs sex in your romance or overly mushy displays, I wouldn't recommend The Shadow Mark.
The novel is quieter than its predecessor, more of a tactical head game waiting to be played out.
The story and mystery are the main players, along with Auraq, the seemingly irredeemable criminal warrior with a heart of loyal gold. I loved the mystery, kinda guessed who was the culprit behind the treasonous crime. But how everything came together? That was fun.
Enjoyed the last chapter even more than the epilogue. Am I seeing a possible link between book #1 and #2's Lords? I really hope so.
Overall, great story stronger in all parts but romance than book #1. I'm definitely a fan of this series. A copy provided for an honest review.