While Blade often felt like a lengthy set-up full of explanation and little action, Shadow is all about action. It is set in the crumbling remains of book one, as the characters run for their lives from Vortigern, who has usurped the throne of the High King. Merlin, Natalenya and Garth flee northward with the true high king, Arthur, who is just a baby. There is little hope, and their options close around them one by one. Slavery, treachery, and escape fill the book's pages, culminating in a high-stakes chase for the life of Arthur, the young heir to the throne. In short, this book is a page-turner, and goes well after Merlin's Blade.
Better yet, Treskillard has improved on his characterization, working not just with characters facing events, but real and textured people. Merlina and Natalenya find themselves bitterly divided, as miscommunications abound and Natalenya's illness drives a wedge between them. I found all of the characters far more fleshed out and interesting. In the spots that are low on action, the realistic characters more than carry the book forward.
Merlin's Shadow more than makes up for the shortcomings of its predecessor. It's engaging, exciting, and leaves you with foreboding dread, even with the story arc resolved. Treskillard manages to work in just as many references to traditional Arthurian legends as he did in the first book, leading us to close the back cover with the black name Morgana in our thoughts.
I recommend Merlin's Shadow highly, and the entire series with it. Blade is definitely worth it to get to Shadow, and I'm eagerly looking forward to book three, Merlin's Nightmare. I urge you to do the same.
Also, exciting news! We're going to be giving away Merlin's Blade and Merlin's Shadow in a bundle sometime during the next few weeks, so stay tuned and watch this space!
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ItB received Merlin's Shadow for free from Booklook, and we were not obligated to give a favorable review.