Shadow of a Dead God by Patrick Samphire SPFBO review

SPFBO: Shadow of a Dead God by Patrick Samphire

We continue reviewing the SPFBO 6 Finalists. Our next one up is Shadow of a Dead God by Patrick Samphire, chosen by the Fantasy Faction team. I’m sitting this one out as well, because earlier last year we organized a tour for this book via Storytellers On Tour. And since there was money involved, I thought it was best not to take part in the scoring to avoid drama and conflict of interest. So, there will be only three scores for this title.

About the Book
Series: Mennik Thorn #1Genre: Fantasy
Date of Publishing: May 27th, 2020Publisher: self-published
Book Blurb
Shadow of a Dead God

It was only supposed to be one little job – a simple curse-breaking for Mennik Thorn to pay back a favor 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…

Review

Jen – 7.3/10

I was intrigued by Shadow of a Dead God from the moment I saw the cover art. I am in love with the font which gave me Stargate vibe and was the biggest eye-catcher to me.

Anyway, Shadow of a Dead God was a huge amount of fun. I love mysteries and I enjoyed the noir feel to the story. Our lead Mennik – a freelance mage who becomes embroiled in a murder mystery, where he and his friend Benny are the prime suspects, was hard-boiled enough to feel like a noir detective, but the lighter tone kept him just this side of being too dour and unlikeable. 

On the whole, I thought the pacing, world building, and the flow of information were all well done. Slowing at times to let things sink in and picking up again to keep you interested. There is a bit of set-up in the start but it’s interesting, not boring and by the thirty-percent mark, I was hooked and it just got better from there.

I particularly loved the dead God magic angle and the way the ash, and the guard, were used as a nullifier to keep the mages from being overpowered. One of the more interesting magic set-ups I have seen and the fact that some God’s could still be walking around gives this some unique possibilities. 

It’s relatively small cast and narrow focus, which limits the options of the “who dunnit” making the mystery behind this surprisingly twisty for such a small suspect pool.

Because Shadow of a Dead God is from Nik’s point of view, some of the answers to the mystery are in the form of speculation that we can only assume is right. Which, in one way, feels a teeny bit unfulfilling but the trade-off is that we are saved from the inevitable “I would have gotten away with it too, if it weren’t for you meddling kids!” speech.

I liked the characters, especially the Ash guard, Meroi. Benny and Mennik’s friendship, was a lot of fun. I enjoyed the interplay between them and some of their antics (when he popped that claw into his mouth…good grief, I laughed a lot). 

There were a few moments that were a little rough feeling – confrontation with mom comes to mind and I wasn’t entirely sold on Sereh. I think Nik’s seeing her as some frightening killer was the problem for me. Maybe her calling him Uncle Nik just made her seem tamer but I never felt the ‘scary kid’ vibe that he kept alluding to and I took it more as Nik projecting his fear of kids on to her, and kept wondering if we would eventually see more reasons to warrant his thoughts. I am still not sure which is the case with her – scary kid or projecting…or maybe it’s a bit of both.

On the whole I really enjoyed Shadow of a Dead God, it hit a lot of my likes and I blew through it quickly, rarely remembering to take notes (I am kind of regretting as I try to sort my thoughts out in this review).

Nick – 8/10

Shadow of a Dead God is one of those unique fantasy reads that blends epic fantasy and a touch of detective noir, with excellent results. We open the story with the imperfect mage Mennik Thorn and his oldest friend Benny attempting to pull off a seemingly easy job. Mennik thinks nothing of it since he owes his buddy a favor and how hard could a simple snatch and grab job be, right? What they don’t know at the time but will soon find out is they are trying to steal from one of the most powerful high mages in the city, and one that doesn’t take too kindly to those who try and take what is his. When things go sideways really quickly, they are soon on the run (Benny actually finds himself imprisoned) while at the same time investigating who could have been behind their frame-up. Someone very powerful was willing to sacrifice Mennik and Benny to get what they wanted, but to what end?

This book started out a bit on the slow side as we get introduced to all of the main players and there’s a good amount of world-building that sets things up. After the quarter mark though, things heat up considerably and it becomes a very interesting detective story that also involves quite a lot of adventure as Mennik travels from one place to another trying to find answers before he and his friend end up dead. I really liked the way Patrick Samphire created such an intriguing murder mystery, so much so that at times I had to remind myself that I was reading a book that involved mages and various other fantastic magical creatures. Just when I would forget though, Patrick would bring me back into the wonderful fantasy world that serves as the backdrop. The city of Agatos is one that is run by a variety of nasty individuals, many of whom are involved in a power struggle that could have serious ramifications for those who get caught in the crossfire. The interesting side characters in and around the city gave the story an added dimension for me.

Speaking of characters, they are top-notch with dialogue that is frequently infused with sarcastic humor and wit throughout. I especially liked the interactions between Mennik and Benny. You can sense that they almost have a frienemy quality about them but when the chips are down, they seem to have each other’s backs. This book had so many elements that I found enjoyable and even though it is a fairly large book at over 450 pages, the story is so compelling that it felt like a book half its size. I recommend Shadow of a Dead God to those who enjoy their fantasy with a good dose of mystery, cool magic, and characters who are likable despite their flaws.

Peter – 8.5/10

Now Shadow of a Dead God was a book that I was really looking forward to reading, especially after a recent blog tour which I missed out on.

Needless to say I really enjoyed this, it’s quite a unique story in the sense it blends fantasy and detective noir together.  It opens with one Menick Thorn and his buddy Benny, attempting to pull off a relatively simple job.  Things go sideways very quickly when they realise who they are stealing from and the pair find themselves on the run, and also trying to find out who framed them in the first place.

Shadow of a Dead God does begin slowly, but what this allows Patrick to do is to set up the main characters, build this world with top notch world building and set things up very nicely.  The book does change pace quickly though, it is a well handed adventure story mixed with a detective story.  I really enjoyed the way Patrick presents an interesting murder mystery in this fantasy setting, it was really was great to read.  Also Patrick has created some memorable side characters that really helped the story and characters, a tip of the hat from me.

Shadow of a Dead God also happens to be filled with some hilarious and brilliant dialogue, frequency sarcasm and wit throughout the book.  Mennick and Benny’s banter was brilliant, they have such a good relationship that borders on irritating each other from time to time.  This was again another enjoyable aspect of the book.  I do have to admit that I found a lot to enjoy in this book and it’s quite long at 450 pages, the story is compelling and you really do want to find out more as it goes along.  This is a great 1st book in a series as well and something that I really recommend!

Our Judgement
Jen: 7.3Nick: 8Peter: 8.5Timy: X

Our overall rating for Shadow of a Dead God: 8/10

Shadow of a Dead God

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