Knight’s Shadow, the second book in Sebastien de Castell’s Greatcoats series, was much easier for me to sink into than his initial work, Traitor’s Blade. I already had a relationship with the main players (Falcio, Brasti, and Kest), and the introduction of new cast members felt much less overwhelming when I understood the basics of the universe. Falcio’s struggles with his neatha poisoning also helped me really sense the depth of the bond he’d created with his companions. It is also a much more linear narrative, probably because the backstory was mostly revealed in book one. While I enjoyed the flashbacks previously, it was definitely easier to not try to piece together information to create a whole. Knight’s Shadow is still complex though, and the mysteries surrounding the death of dukes, how to protect the new heir to the throne, and the general unrest in Tristia are worth exploring.
The women continue to get equal treatment in de Castell’s storytelling, and Valiana from book one truly comes into her own in this volume. She grows from a spoiled, pampered child into a powerful young woman, and I loved seeing the transformation. By the end of the story, she may possibly be the most influential person in all of Tristia due to luck and upbringing. The other women come in a variety of personality types, and no one is just a stereotype. For a book with so much focus on fighting, it’s refreshing to see women holding their own with whatever weapons they choose to wield.
In Traitor’s Blade I felt I didn’t fully identify with Falcio, but that seems to have faded away with Knight’s Shadow. His struggles with neatha poisoning, personal choices, and whether he should continue to follow his late king helped to create a man I respect and admire. Maybe I shouldn’t be surprised since everyone around him ends up feeling the same way!
de Castell’s afterword admits he feared writing a sequel to Traitor’s Blade, but I’d argue that his sophomore novel excels at telling a fun, exciting adventure. I’d recommend starting with book one, but Knight’s Shadow is a strong tale in its own right. If you’ve ever wanted a fantasy tale with more swashbuckling and less unexplainable events, I highly recommend Knight’s Shadow! It’s just good sword fighting fun and adventures!
4.5 Strange Magical Powders out of 5