Auraq Greystone is a man with a past that could easily see him dead if the wrong person recognizes him. Which is why he keeps to himself. But when Auraq meets a pair of strangers on the road, he finds their company surprisingly enjoyable. Until a group of assassins attacks them, leaving an old man dead and Auraq sworn to protect his apprentice, Kane.
Kane was an ordinary apprentice until his repair of a bracer led to the transference of a shadow mark that threatens to claim his life. He is doomed to carry the last terrible memories of a condemned man unless he can find a mage who understands the true meaning behind the mark. But there are those determined to make sure the mark’s secret remains buried forever.
Thrown together under the most difficult of circumstances, Kane and Auraq find themselves unable to trust anyone and with time running out, they must make a dangerous leap of faith. But doing so might leave them dead and tear apart a kingdom.
The Shadow Mark is the second in the Lords of Davenia series, following Lord Mouse, but this book is easily read as a standalone. The plot isn’t nearly as complex as my summary makes it seem, but it can be hard to sum up without revealing too many spoilers. This book offers a straightforward fantasy with a strong plot, great characters, and excellent pacing. It really hits all the right notes and I was never less than completely involved with the story. Right from the start, we’re exposed to a level of action that remains consistent and engaging, without ever seeming superfluous or like page filler. The tension during certain moments is credible and it was really hard to set The Shadow Mark down long enough to do things like sleep.
Kane and Auraq are rather “stock” fantasy characters – one a man on the run and the other an innocent trapped by dangerous magic. But they are written so well and given so much life that they never feel stale or boring. Auraq is slightly better developed than Kane and his struggle to make sense of both the situation he is in and the reality of his past are keenly rendered. Kane makes a good partner for the gruff Auraq, but for too much of the book he is forced to the sidelines because of the mark. So I didn’t feel as though his character got nearly the chance he deserved to shine. This is really my own gripe with the book and I considered it a minor one as a more involved Kane would have made a great story only better. In addition to the main characters, we’re given a well developed secondary cast that both has purpose and depth. Auraq’s father is an especially nice addition.
The Shadow Mark is an excellent fantasy that is strongly driven by plot and action. The characters are wonderfully done and while the romance is far from the forefront, there’s enough evolution to bring Kane and Auraq together naturally. Consider this one a must read for anyone enjoys action-packed fantasy and engaging characters.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.