Scott Marlowe, fantasy author

Scott Marlowe

Author of the Alchemancer and Assassin Without a Name fantasy series

Interesting Words: Shadow's Son by Jon Sprunk

View this book on Amazon.com One of the things I often do as I'm reading a novel or short story is keep track of words whose definitions I do not know or that I find interesting. Either way, these interesting words are ones I feel might be of use in my own writing. That, and it's good to expand one's vocabulary every once in a while.

These interesting words were found in Jon Sprunk's Shadow's Son.

ambergris: waxy substance secreted by the sperm whale and found floating at sea or washed ashore; used in perfume

banquette: an upholstered bench

chandlery: the place where a chandler's goods are sold or stored

cloying: overly sweet

coiffure: the arrangement of the hair (especially a woman's hair)

corbel: a triangular bracket of brick or stone (usually of slight extent)

cresset: An open frame or basket of iron, filled with combustible material, to be burned as a beacon; an open lamp or firrepan carried on a pole in nocturnal processions.

diaphanous: so thin as to transmit light

exarch: a viceroy who governed a large province in the Roman Empire

flambeaux: a flaming torch (such as are used in processions at night)

gabardine: a firm durable fabric with a twill weave

galantine: boned poultry stuffed then cooked and covered with aspic; served cold

gossamer: a gauze fabric with an extremely fine texture

kirtle: a long dress worn by women; 15th century kirtle

lariat: a long noosed rope used to catch animals

malachite: a green mineral used as an ore of copper and for making ornamental objects

minaret: slender tower with balconies

newel: the central pillar of a circular staircase

niter: used especially as a fertilizer and explosive

ordure: solid excretory product evacuated from the bowels

palaver: flattery intended to persuade

parquet: seating on the main floor between the orchestra and the parquet circle

petticoat: undergarment worn under a skirt

prelate: a senior clergyman and dignitary

sibilant: a consonant characterized by a hissing sound (like s or sh)

skein: a long piece of wool that has been wound into a loose shape instead of a tight ball

slattern: a prostitute who attracts customers by walking the streets

staccato: marked by or composed of disconnected parts or sounds; cut short crisply

susurrus: the indistinct sound of people whispering

verdigris: a green patina that forms on copper or brass or bronze that has been exposed to the air or water for long periods of time

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Shadow's Son by Jon Sprunk

Shadow's Son by Jon Sprunk is both the author's debut novel and the beginning of a new trilogy about the principal character, Caim, an assassin with a noble heart. The character is unique in a couple of ways: he has a ghostly familiar in the form of Kit who only he can see and he possesses a mysterious power that manifests itself in the form of shadows.

Told in the vein of Paul S. Kemp's Erevis Cale or R.A. Salvatore's Drizzt Do'Urden, Caim is a man who has taken up the knives of an assassin because it's what he's good at. He has rules: he doesn't kill women or children, and only takes contracts on those deserving. How the latter is determined is a bit subjective; this sort of vigilante justice inevitably bags the wrong man every once in a while.

Shadow's Son gets off to a rousing start. Caim is in the middle of a job that quickly degenerates into a chase and kill escapade as he refuses to allow his target to get away. From there we begin to learn more about our main character: why he's chosen this life, who his friends are (he doesn't have many), and what aspirations he harbors, especially of leaving the assassination business behind one day.

There is an ensemble of other characters: the beforementioned Kit who shadows Caim's every move, Jospehine, whose father is assassinated under suspicious circumstances and who is forced into an alliance with Caim, Ral, a rival assassin, and three principal villains who I unfortunately found to be caricatures of each other, with the only one displaying any sort of uniqueness being Leviticus because he shares some of the same shadow powers that Caim possesses.

I thought Shadow's Son started out great. But it quickly degenerates into a very predictable, cliché-ridden story. Bad boy hero is really a good guy deep down who develops an impossible relationship with the rich girl whose father he's accused of murdering. Also, he has a dark past tied up with a heritage he insists on denying even though it's pretty obvious there's some truth to it. In the end, he must embrace this heritage and save the city.

As for the characters, Caim often comes across as too noble to have ever gotten mixed up in such a sordid career. Josephine is your typical rich girl who is tougher than she looks; she has some character development, but I wasn't convinced. Kit, who might have been the most interesting of all, has potential that is never fully explored as she conveniently disappears so that Caim and Josephine can get to know each other a little better. The three villains… they're mean, greedy, and power-hungry in equal amounts, but fairly shallow from a motivation perspective.

Shadow's Son is akin to a blockbuster summer movie that almost works: good entertainment but not something that's going to make you think or feel hungry for the next installment. I'll see what Sprunk has in the works for the next book in the series and if it sounds intriguing enough I might pick it up. He at least leaves Caim's future adventures wide-open with the ending of this one.