The Shadow Saint (The Black Iron Legacy #2) by Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan

ShadowSaintThe Shadow Saint is a solid instalment in the Black Iron Legacy series.  No suffering from the dreaded ‘middle book syndrome’ to be found amongst these pages, and although this was a read that took a little time to fully grab my attention it really is another very impressive book.

Firstly, I would point out that as this is a review for the second book in a series you might want to be aware that potential spoilers may be lurking, I do try to avoid these but sometimes they’re determined to break out regardless of my intentions.  Also, without doubt, if you’re planning on picking up Shadow Saint you need to have read Gutter Prayer first.  This book is quite different in a couple of ways from the first book.  The main characters are mostly new although some of the previous cast do make appearances, and although there was plenty of world building in the first book, given the ending, it feels like we’re learning about the place all over again.  Conversely, given those two elements, you would think you’d be able to pick this one up as a standalone but I would strongly advise against doing so.

What both books have in common is a need to read at a pace that allows thought and reflection.  There is no blasting through these pages just as there wasn’t with the first book.  This is, dare I say, a convoluted read.  Guerdon is in the throes of political upheaval and there is much posturing and party political hobnobbing not to mention the potential threat of war increases the tension dramatically.  In fairness I wasn’t really a fan of all the campaigning and matters of state and this aspect of the story, coupled with the new characters slowed me down quite a bit at first until I became more involved in the story and started to understand what was really happening.

Similar to my review of Gutter Prayer, I’m not going to elaborate on the plot.  There will be plenty of other descriptions out there not to mention the cover blurb and given the covert nature of a lot of the story I’d sooner not go there.

In terms of the characters this time we have two new faces, a spy with many identifies and a Haith noble who seems to be somewhat disgraced in the eyes of his family.  We also follow Eladora who appeared in the first book and is Cari’s cousin.  All of them are easy to read about and feel fully fleshed out but I admit it took me a while to really get on board with them and that’s probably my own fault.  I think I naturally assumed, or wanted, more of the old faces from The Gutter Prayer and so these changes at first made me feel a little resentful and I had to get over that before I could really start to care about the fates of any of them. Cari was my favourite and that’s probably because I enjoyed where her story led to in more ways than the other two.

Once again the writing is just excellent and the imagination is, frankly, superb.  I really enjoyed the elements of the story surrounding Cari and the creative ways that she managed to elude capture and traverse the city.  It’s really difficult to say anything more about that aspect because it would involve spoilers but I really loved it whenever she made an appearance.

In terms of criticisms.  Well, as already mentioned, this certainly isn’t a fast paced read.  There are political machinations and lots of double dealing and back stabbing and, as with any story with more twists and turns than a busted corkscrew, it can sometimes feel like walking up a sand dune or trying to run in water but, at the same time, I have to say, stick with it.  I think my own impatience got the better of me at times but that’s an ‘it’s me not you’ thing really.  Sometimes you just need to slow down and enjoy the book, stop worrying about deadlines and the like and let yourself become fully immersed.  It may have taken me a while but I eventually got there.

In conclusion, I probably didn’t love Shadow Saint as much as Gutter Prayer but it was still, without doubt, a very good read with some fantastic elements that I absolutely loved.  I wasn’t as keen on the politics of the piece but the dark undertones, the tension and the world building were really good.

I received a copy through Netgalley courtesy of the publisher, for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.

Rating 4 of 5 stars