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 Post subject: Shadow Prowler
PostPosted: Tue Jun 26, 2012 8:57 pm 
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I have finished the first book in a new (as explained later) series, and have been generally pleased.

Shadow Prowler is by Alexey Pehov, a Russian best selling author. Looking up his works, he seems quite prolific, but the gimmick is, up to the present, his books have only been in Russian.

I do read Russian after a fact, but not well enough to enjoy fantasy literature written in it, but browsing my local bookstore last week, I picked up this book and the second one in the series, hyped as the first time his books had been published in English, and intrigued by the comment on the back of the book comparing Pehov with Michael Moorcock (a very enjoyable author, although very much a product of the 1970's), I picked up the two books, assuming that it was worth a risk.

I was correct. The main plotline is nothing unique (take one Master Thief, draft him into the King's service because his fame has gotten just a bit too noteable, add a group of disparate people to join him, and send them off to retrieve an artifact that was placed where nobody could steal it, before discovering that it was needed), but the descriptions are rich, the characters are more than just archtypes, and the humour is enjoyable (watching the Master Thief accidentally steal a gnomish cannon was a high point).

The writer has turned a lot of the fantasy stereotypes on their ear as well. The ogres were the original race, wise, powerful, deadly, and quite hostile. The orcs and the elves are really branches of the second race to come into existance (although they prefer to call themselves the First Race, ignoring the Ogres), sharing the common slate grey skin, black hair and tusks, divided when the orcs chose to live in caves and the elves chose the forests, then further divided when the High Elves chose to abandon their traditional magic to take up the High Magic of the Humans, while the Dark Elves chose to stay with their shamanic magic, more potent than high magic, but more difficult and slower to perform.

It is also easy to tell the Dwarves and the Gnomes apart, since no Dwarf would be caught dead with a beard, while each Gnome considers his beard his greatest pride (Dwarves are also taller and more heavy set). The Gnomes and Dwarves are enemies, to the point where the Dwarves cut off all treaties with the Humans when the Humans chose to sign treaties with the Gnomes in return for their Gnomish cannons.

All this is simple twisting of the traditional forms though, and the plotline, while fully enjoyable, is not unique. A group of thirteen beings (Humans, Elves, a Gnome and a Dwarf, and one spare Goblin) is off to invade an inverted building hoping to recover the artifact before the great evil rises and the orcs come to make war. What impresses me though about Pehov's writing is his handling of subplots. At no point is the main plotline ever obstructed, while subplots and subplots of the subplots all come and go, and it all winds together into a very enjoyable experience. The book contains a glossery at the back, but the writing was clear enough that I never found need to use it, although reading it afterwards did add to the world storyline.

Additionally, Pehov fleshes out the history of the world without making it feel like a break in the storyline.

All in all, there is nothing really unique there, but an author that skilled can make even an old plotline come to life, and Pehov has managed to accomplish that. The second book awaits, the third one is supposed to be out in the fall, so I shall dive into Shadow Chaser, although likely not tonight, as I may still be reading it at three in the morning if I start now.

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 Post subject: Re: Shadow Prowler
PostPosted: Wed Jun 27, 2012 10:45 pm 
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I love the way you tell the story of the story, Xerius. You take each factor one by one and polish it off, the way some people eat corn on the cob. You continue until it is all done, laid neatly in a row, and as satisfying as a Sunday picnic (can you tell I'm hungry? lol).

Thanks for sharing - Pehov's novels sound delightful.

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 Post subject: Re: Shadow Prowler
PostPosted: Wed Apr 09, 2014 12:11 pm 
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I really should have written this some months ago, as Shadow Blizzard came out in October, and I read it over Christmas, but the middle aged mind forgets to do things.

The conclusion to the trilogy was very satisfying, for the most part. The group (or what was left of them) arrived at the inverted building, the Master Thief enters, and then things go wild.

I must admit I had certain preconceptions about how things were going to progress in there, but what I got was nothing like what I had been expecting. It was seriously creepy in that place and the rising tension was masterfully written. By the time the Master Thief got where he was supposed to go, I was wondering if the story was going to end with his death, which is unusual in a genre where you know quite well that the main character always survives.

And then my single criticism of the series arises, as the story could have done without the multitude of sub plots that continued to show up as the book approached the end. I realize it was the hallmark of the writer to include a multitude of sub plots, and he continued to utilize them without confusing the reader as to where the main plot was going, but they had to appear and resolve so quickly that by the third or fourth one, I started to feel like they had been added simply to add another fifty pages to the book, rather than to further the storyline.

Still, the series was satisfactory, the somewhat formula story most certainly got turned on its ear when the inverted building showed up, and I wanted to know what happened next when the story ended, which is generally a sign of a well written series.

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 Post subject: Re: Shadow Prowler
PostPosted: Thu Apr 10, 2014 1:11 pm 
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It's very satisfying to hear that a series is satisfactory and to hear you say it with some satisfaction. (How's that for repetition in proximity?? lol) Seriously, I'm glad you enjoyed it, as I rather guess that you are not easy to satisfy in the reading department.

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 Post subject: Re: Shadow Prowler
PostPosted: Sun Apr 20, 2014 8:29 pm 
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Raya wrote:
Seriously, I'm glad you enjoyed it, as I rather guess that you are not easy to satisfy in the reading department.


I would like to hope that is not strictly the case, as I enjoy a formulaic book quite well, assuming it varies the traditional story enough to have some element of novelty to it.

I could take the late David Eddings' work as my example, since I still enjoy his writing (mostly, as his last couple of books were not written as well to my eye) even though he is very formula in his Belgariad series. I have seen him criticized for his adherence to good always winning, evil always losing, and a rigid line being drawn between the two, even though I might debate it to some degree, and would hold The Redemption of Althalus as a very unique, and very enthralling book.

I do have some limited tolerance for some tropes though, and find authors who over use certain concepts to be substandard (I will refrain from specific examples, as debate is not something I need to initiate here). Perhaps a general example would be a couple of authors who felt the need to lengthen their books by putting five or more adjectives into every sentence in the book, which make reading them a tedious experience (and even then there are exceptions, since Robert E. Howard did exactly that to the point where the term 'purple prose' was coined to describe his writing, and I enjoy his books).

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 Post subject: Re: Shadow Prowler
PostPosted: Sun May 25, 2014 9:35 pm 
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I guess I was a little hasty in my assessment of you. I remember that you quite liked Witchcanery, so I guess I need to be more supportive of your reading habits :)

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