This review is about the second book in the Sword of Shadows series by J.V. Jones. I’ve probably said it before in my first review, but I just love J.V. Jones’ writing style. She’s one of two female Fantasy writers in my book collection (though I’m sure I need to broaden my horizon when it comes to female writers) and she’s just as great as the men. Sometimes even better.
Raif and Ash travel to the lands of those who hunt seals and live on ice, but are separated as Ash is taken by the Far Riders. She is to become Sull, and they can’t have a clansman tagging along. Especially not Raif, because he is Mor Drakka. Watcher of the Dead. Raif has no idea how to move on and decides to join the Maimed Men. He doesn’t know it, but this leads him one step closer to his destiny as the Watcher of the Dead. Raina Blackhail, wife of chief Mace, finds her clanhold infested with Scarpe members and decides things have to change if Blackhail is to stay a good and close clan. Together with two of her peers, she has betrayal on her mind.
Meanwhile, Angus has been under the care of the Doglord, but is set free to take note of all that is happening in the clanholds and the greedy cities on their borders. Because the cities are getting ready to invade and the surlord of Spire Vanis ensures his men will be first. After all; sending your enemies to get killed by barbarians is quite the stroke of genius. But Penthero Iss has forgotten one thing: his wizard in the tower may be broken, but he’s not dead yet.
I must say there are a lot more things happening in this book and to a lot more people. I do enjoy the fact that J.V. Jones have spared no effort to populate the world she has created. She also gives certain characters – like Effie and Raina – a lot more ‘screen time’. I got to learn more about the clans and how they are different from each other and yet in some things the same. How the fear of magic could make men do horrible things, even to a child. And about how hard it is to go against one’s chief.
I also learned more about the Sull and the Maimed Men. I do find it very interesting that in the book there are so many mentions that the Sull aren’t human, but we don’t get any kind of clue of what they are. They seem like all other men and women, only harder and sterner. They also seem quite arrogant at times, even though it doesn’t always seem warranted. They seem like a strong warrior race and a closed people, but I’m itching to find out more about them.
I was pretty excited about Raif joining the Maimed Men, because they had been mentioned one or two times in the first book and I was curious who and what they were. But life with them is not as easy as he thought, because they are a hard people and they are not clan. I found it very believable that Raif had trouble fitting in, because even though he’s declared a traitor to his clan, he still feels clan. And he still has the same morals and values, so it’s difficult to just leave all that behind.
Mace takes a bit of a back-seat in this novel, as his wife Raina is more in the spotlight this time. You can see her resolve to get the clan back from him harden and finally make its way out in the open. You also get to see a softer side and sometimes unrealistic side of her, as she denies Ingar, the clan guide, to have Effie as an apprentice and decides to send the girl to clan Dregg to keep her safe. Of course, as the reader you can understand why that’s not the right choice, but you also understand why she does it. Effie herself also gets more attention and through her ‘adventure’, we get a glimpse into the Sevrance bloodline and history and a hint of magic even then.
In this novel J.V. Jones also focusses more on other clans – and of course Spire Vanis with Baralis and Crope, who are actually characters from the Book of Words series, which suggests they’re all living in the same world – such as Bludd and Dhoone. Bram is a new character whom I expect to grow into one of the main characters in the next books. He’s quiet and smart and curious, much like Effie, although he’s at least 8 years older. The manipulations and court espionage in Spire Vanis are reaching their hight point and everyone is gearing up for war. And one of the most unexpected and quite anticlimactic of deaths occurs here, but I won’t spoil it for you.