James Maxey – Greatshadow

The warrior woman known as Infidel is legendary for her superhuman strength and skin tough as chain mail. She’s made few friends during her career as a sword-for-hire, and many powerful enemies. Following the death of her closest companion, Infidel finds herself weary of life as a mercenary and sets her eyes on one final prize that will allow her to live out the rest of her days in luxury, the priceless treasure trove of Greatshadow.

Greatshadow is the primal dragon of fire. His malign intelligence spies upon mankind through every flickering candle, patiently waiting to devour victims careless with even the smallest flame. The Church of the Book has assembled a team of twelve battle-hardened adventurers to slay the dragon once and for all. But tensions run high between the leaders of the quest who view the mission as a holy duty and the super-powered mercenaries who add power to their ranks, who dream only of Greatshadow’s vast wealth. If the warriors fail to slay the beast, will they doom mankind to death by fire?

Greatshadow is the first book in an exciting new adventure series from a master of dragon fantasy.

The first in a new series by James Maxey, Greatshadow managed to be both a very original book and a rather familiar one. Let’s start with the original part. The book had a very original take on the narration. While the protagonist is Infidel, she is not the narrator; no, that place is beholden to Stagger, her erstwhile – and currently very dead – partner. This approach is one I hadn’t seen before and one that’s very effective in keeping us appraised of happenings Infidel couldn’t have known about. Told in first person with Stagger referring to himself as I, Greatshadow is actually mostly a third person story as Stagger relates Infidel’s story. I really enjoyed the way the book was narrated and Stagger is a very funny point of view.

Now for the rather familiar part: the characters surrounding Infidel. The cast of people along with Infidel on her quest is very cool and I really liked them, but if you squint hard enough at them you can just assign them their relevant D&D classes and you have a relatively traditional adventuring party. However, this only occurred to me after finishing the book, so it might just be nitpicking. My favourite members of Infidel’s group were the Three Goons, Relic and Aurora. The Three Goons were just really funny and interesting, Relic rather creepily mysterious and Aurora is just a wonderful character, whose background as a high priestess to the primal dragon Hush was very interesting and also key to the story.

Infidel is completely kick ass. She’s an intriguing juxtaposition; despite being physically mostly invulnerable, she’s still very human and emotionally breakable. Her back story is awesome and very well done, we slowly learn more about where she comes from and how she acquired her magical protections. I loved how she only realised how she felt about Stagger after she lost him and hits herself over the head for it. So yes, there is a sort of romance in the book, but definitely not of the traditional kind. Infidel also showed growth during the novel, going from a rather barbaric artefact looter to wanting a more ‘normal’ life. I’m curious where Maxey will take this in the next book.

While the basic plot of the book is rather linear – a group of people get together and go off to slay the dragon – it’s the side plots and the characters’ motivation that make the story captivating. The world building, while relatively limited – we’re on an island – is interesting. We get enough glimpses of the world off island to not feel too isolated, but Maxey mainly focuses on the Isle of Fire itself. We do meet some interesting races and learn some excellent dragon lore. This book mainly focused on Greatshadow, the primal dragon of fire, but in the next book we’ll meet Hush, Rott and Glorious and I imagine we’ll meet others in the third book, Witchbreaker. I can’t wait to learn about other parts of this world and more dragon lore in the coming books.

Greatshadow was a fabulous read, which kept me turning pages and just finishing one more chapter before doing whatever I was supposed to do. Besides, any story that can legitimately clothe its main character in a chain mail bikini and make it functional can only be genius! If you like straight up adventure novels, kick ass heroines and dragons – lots of dragons – then you can’t miss Greatshadow. I know I’m already impatient for the second book in the series called Hush, planned for release in July. Greatshadow is out from Solaris Books this week.

This book was sent to me for review by the publisher.


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