Marius Everhart isn’t always sure what is real. His time trapped with the Shadow Queen clouded his mind and even though he’s escaped, things haven’t improved. People are terrified of shadowmancers and the power they wield, which means Marius must keep running, both from the Queen who hunts him and the humans who fear him. At least, until he meets Ayodele.
Ayodele Sauveterre knows shadowmancers are dangerous, but his burgeoning guild needs a powerful member. And it’s obvious Marius wouldn’t intentionally hurt a fly. He’s too fragile and used to being hurt himself. The Paladin Charm Guild isn’t exactly a well-known name, but for Ayodele it represents a chance to save his homeland and to create a guild that cares more for the people it protects than for itself. But to stop their enemies, Ayodele will have to convince the rest of the guild and an entire kingdom that Marius can be trusted and convince Marius that he is more than a dangerous weapon.
Shadowmancer was an intriguing mix of fantasy and magic that tried hard, but ultimately fell a bit short. Let’s start with the positives. The premise of Shadowmancer is an interesting one and the author has done a great job setting up a cast of characters that work well together. Marius has been used and hurt for a long time before he meets Ayodele. So he’s rather fragile and the idea of finding a home at Paladin Charm is like a dream for him. He’s easy to champion as a reader because there is no malice in him. He genuinely cares for others and his power is a burden he never asked for. Ayodele is a bit of a dandy and somewhat shallow, though we get the sense that he’s trying to be a better person. He’s just using Marius at first, but he’s honest about his motives and as his feelings evolve, so do those motives.
The issue with Marius and Ayodele and indeed with the entire book is one of depth. Or rather a lack there of. Everything about Shadowmancer lacks definition. The characters and their struggles read as somewhat superficial. There’s a shallowness about the book that affects nearly every aspect. World building is one area where this problem is most obvious. Essentially there is none. We’re never told much of anything about where Paladin is located, about the governmental structure, or why some cities have such powerful guilds. We’re never told who the Shadow Queen is, what her realm is like, or why she has such an obsession with Marius. Everything in Shadowmancer seems to exist on the surface, occurring without the necessary depth or explanation to give the story much weight.
Shadowmancer is enjoyable enough from a very basic standpoint. Marius is a sweetheart and his eventual acceptance by Paladin Charm is fulfilling. But the relationship between Marius and Ayodele, as well as the story itself, never evolves. It’s like the scaffolding is there but that’s all. It really needed more fleshing out to feel complete. There is another book planned for Marius and Ayodele and perhaps that will provide some of what was missing from Shadowmancer.