Welcome to the Holy City at Summer’s End. The border with the Otherworld is razor thin. Shadowfest is coming. Malevolent spirits and monsters roam. Dark forces are plotting to seize power. The past has come back to haunt Brona the Apothecary and Aurelian the Investigator. Revenge can be a double-edged sword, as Morven the Mage once discovered. And Death may be the least of their worries…
In Shadowfest, author D.J. Reid spins a clever murder mystery out of Celtic and Greco-Roman myth and folklore. It’s a delightfully complex tale, with endearingly well-rounded characters, hidden motives, eldritch magic, and mythical creatures galore.
I’m not a great fan of pop-culture monsters, but I have a soft spot for fiction that incorporates historically accurate myths and legends. (You can probably blame an early childhood spent reading authors like CJ Cherryh and Charles de Lint for that.) I was thrilled to discover that Shadowfest is exactly the kind of historically-inspired fantasy I enjoy.
Part of the story takes place in the present and follows Apothecary Brona; her familiar, a black cat named Balor; Guard Captain Aurelian; the tale’s antagonists; and a handful of minor characters. The other half of the tale takes place nine years in the past and is concerned with a tough, crafty young Mage named Morven.
I really like Reid’s characters. They’re human and believable, and I found myself caring what happened to them. My absolute favorite was Morven. I admire her toughness, ingenuity, and unshakeable will to survive. She’s a woman with a sarcastic wit and the skills to survive– whether her adversaries are witch-finders, malevolent denizens of the Otherworld, or powerful magic users with evil intentions.
The different character viewpoints are neatly separated by chapter breaks, and each new section is handily marked with the character’s name. The characters are so well developed that I wouldn’t have had a hard time telling them apart, but I appreciated that the author took the time to eliminate any confusion. Of all the complex multi-viewpoint books I’ve read, this was by far the easiest to follow.
Reid is a talented storyteller with a knack for evocative descriptions like the one below, and I found her writing a pleasure to read.
She clattered across the cobbles of Blackstone Bridge. Swollen by heavy rainfall, the River Shona swept up her eastern sister Myrna in a foamy embrace. They roared south together towards the sea, battering rocks. Jets of seething spray flew over the parapet.
Now that’s a description that’s not only fun to read, but also gives me a very good idea what the place looks like!
This tale kept me on the edge of my seat from start to finish with all of its unexpected twists and turns, and had one of the most satisfying endings I’ve read in a long time. Like a complex Celtic knot, all of the story’s many threads are tucked into place in the end.
Fast paced enough to thrill teen and adult readers alike, I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys good myth and folklore-inspired fantasy. D.J. Reid is definitely one of my new favorite authors!
Shadowfest is available in ebook and paperback from Amazon, and in my humble opinion it’s definitely worth checking out!