Today is my stop on the blog tour for Shadow of a Dead God by Patrick Samphire, organised by The Write Reads book tour group. Thank you very much to Dave and the author for having me along on the tour and sending me a digital copy of the book to read and review as part of the 2021 BBNYA competition and the BBNYA tours organised by the TWR Tour team. All opinions are my own, unbiased and honest.
BBNYA is a yearly competition where Book Bloggers from all over the world read and score books written by indie authors. If you are an author and wish to learn more about the BBNYA competition, you can visit the official website www.bbnya.com or twitter @bbnya_official.
The sign-ups will soon be open for the 2022 BBNYA competition, be it for authors to enter their books, or for bloggers wanting to be part of the new panel, so keep your eyes peeled!!
It was only supposed to be one little job – a simple curse-breaking for Mennik Thorn to pay back a favour to his oldest friend. But then it all blew up in his face. Now he’s been framed for a murder he didn’t commit.
So how is a second-rate mage, broke, traumatized, and with a habit of annoying the wrong people, supposed to prove his innocence when everyone believes he’s guilty?
Mennik has no choice if he wants to get out of this: he is going to have to throw himself into the corrupt world of the city’s high mages, a world he fled years ago. Faced by supernatural beasts, the mage-killing Ash Guard, and a ruthless, unknown adversary, it’s going to take every trick Mennik can summon just to keep him and his friend alive.
But a new, dark power is rising in Agatos, and all that stands in its way is one damaged mage…
Shadow of a Dead God is a fantasy murder mystery told exclusively in first person perspective from the point of view of Mennik ‘Nik’ Thorn, a flippant and warm-hearted freelance mage, with a clear sense of right and wrong. He is a fantastic character, who I really enjoyed getting to know. Averse to killing or injuring people who get in the way unless absolutely necessary, it weighs heavily on his conscience when he does have to hurt people in order to spring his friend Benny from prison and save him from a death sentence. Unfortunately, he seems to be the unluckiest mage alive, and if anything can go wrong when he is involved it most definitely will. He is fiercely loyal to those who deserve it and still smarts from what he feels was a betrayal by his mother many years ago:
“You don’t let your friends down. You don’t cut them loose. I might not know much, but I knew that. You just didn’t.”
Unfortunately he is also the prime suspect in a murder which soon turns into two, then three murders. The victims have been shredded by what appears to be enormous claws. Could he have been set up by one of the three high mages who between them have the city of Agatos sewn up?
“The Countess controlled politics, the Wren ruled the underworld, and Carnelian Silkstar had most of the city’s trade grasped in his greasy little hands.”
His best friend, Benyon ‘Benny’ Field, is a known thief. He has less of a conscience and no magical abilities, so has relied more on violence and cunning in the past:
“Benny had an almost supernatural sense of things he wasn’t supposed to do and places he wasn’t supposed to go.”
Benny is a single father to his eleven year old daughter, Sereh, and is fiercely protective of her, despite the fact that Sereh herself is a formidable character, her knife never far away from her hand. Sereh has a scary almost creepy feel to her and she was one of my favourite characters in the story. She has become able to hide in plain sight, stealthily creeping up on much more powerful people and on the surface she appears cold-hearted and fearless:
“If this doesn’t work,” she said, softly, almost kindly. “If you don’t get Dad out, if you don’t free him, if this goes wrong. I’m going to kill you.”
However, at times the mask drops and we see some raw emotion and vulnerability from Sereh, reminding both the reader and Nik that she is in fact only an eleven year old child, who desperately wants her daddy to stay out of prison.
Another interesting character is Captain Meroi Gale of the Ash Guard. Nik takes a fancy to her and she seems to be a lot more lenient towards him than the other guards might have been. The ash which originates from the cremation of a god, and which the guards wear on their face and skin, stops any magic from being able to be used in their vicinity and thus they are able to chase down and capture misbehaving mages safely. I thought this was a very clever way to get around the extreme power of mages when it comes to law enforcement:
“I’m carrying enough Ash to deaden magic within twenty feet.”
“I noticed,” I said. It was about as good a threat as you could make to a mage. Without our magic, we were like sharks without teeth. We could rush around looking threatening, but there wasn’t much we could actually do. We didn’t tend to go in for hand-to-hand combat.
The magic in this story is intriguing. There is a lot of raw magic flowing around in Agatos and mages are able to draw it into themselves when preparing to cast a spell. Nik has a theory as to why there is so much magic in his town:
“When a god died in the mortal realm, much the same happened, except that the stenches and oozing liquids from a rotting god’s body were what we called raw magic. It permeated the air and the ground and the water wherever a god was worshipped or feared, and where the god’s body lay. Those of us who could use that raw magic were called mages. This was the dirty little secret mages didn’t like to talk about. We were earthworms, dung beetles, tiny, unnamed, crawling, squirming microscopic organisms of the godly soil. We didn’t have magic of our own. We fed off the decaying effluent of dead gods.”
He himself is able to see different types of magic in the air in colours. This is an unusual talent for a mage:
“Magic didn’t have colours, of course. That was just the way I visualised it. I knew a couple of mages who sensed it as music, and even one who tasted it, although I had no idea how that could actually work. I did know it would have put me completely off my dinner. I saw curses as white strands, enfolding objects like a dolphin caught in a net.”
Nik is not a very powerful mage which is surprising, due to his heritage, which I will not get into here, as it would be a spoiler, suffice to say it comes as quite a surprising revelation at about halfway through the book. He gave up his studies at the university years ago and has been working as a freelance mage ever since. One of the jobs he does for people is to disperse ghosts who are haunting their homes. This is what he is trying to do for a well-off wool merchant’s family when we meet him.
I thoroughly enjoyed the comedic touches found throughout this novel:
“Her eyebrow rose even higher. I found myself wondering if it was just going to keep going up her forehead and over the back of her head.”
I also appreciated the decscriptive world-building, which makes use of Nik’s fantastic use of metaphor nicely:
“The Tanneries end of Bell Street was on the way from nowhere to nowhere. It was where the city tossed up its hands and resigned. After all the elaborate planning, graceful plazas, and elegant homes, there was this leftover, swept into the corner.”
“Ghosts weren’t physically dangerous, but a malign ghost could attack your mind, tear your sanity into shreds if it was powerful enough, and wave the rags from the rooftops.”
When Nik discovers what has been killing the victims it raises the stakes quite highly and brings plenty of tension and exciting action scenes into the narrative:
“Paws pummelled the ground as the thing took off after me. I was hurt, damaged, but for just a moment, I didn’t feel a single one of my injuries. All I felt was bone-cutting terror. I didn’t know how that thing was here, but I had seen what it could do to people. I had seen the blood and the ruptured intestines. I had seen limbs hanging by skin. I had seen the shock and fear frozen on dead faces. We all died in the end, but I didn’t want to die like that.”
Shadow of a Dead God was a fabulous way to spend a snowed-in weekend and I thoroughly enjoyed it and would recommend it to all fantasy fans who like a little murder mystery added into their stories. I will defintely be adding the sequel: Nectar For the God to my To Be Read list.
About the Author
Patrick Samphire started writing when he was fourteen years old and thought it would be a good way of getting out of English lessons. It didn’t work, but he kept on writing anyway.
He has lived in Zambia, Guyana, Austria and England. He has been charged at by a buffalo and, once, when he sat on a camel, he cried. He was only a kid. Don’t make this weird.
Patrick has worked as a teacher, an editor and publisher of physics journals, a marketing minion, and a pen pusher (real job!). Now, when he’s not writing, he designs websites and book covers. He has a PhD in theoretical physics, which means that all the unlikely science in his books is actually true. Well, most of it. Well, some of it. Maybe.
Patrick now lives in Wales, U.K. with his wife, the awesome writer Stephanie Burgis, their two sons, and their cat, Pebbles. Right now, in Wales, it is almost certainly raining.
He has published almost twenty short stories and novellas in magazines and anthologies, including Realms of Fantasy, Interzone, Strange Horizons, and The Year’s Best Fantasy, as well as one fantasy novel for adults, SHADOW OF A DEAD GOD, and two novels for children, SECRETS OF THE DRAGON TOMB and THE EMPEROR OF MARS.