Book Review by Debbie Winkler
Series: stand-alone book set in the same world as The Winter King’s War
Author: Susan Dexter
Publisher: Del Rey (July 1993)
ISBN: 0345380649, EAN: 9780345380647
Page Count: 275 pages
Target Age Group: adults
My Rating: 4.5/5 stars, Stunning Fantasy Adventure
Crocken the peddler knew that he made a bad bargain the instant he agreed to the wizard’s “request”, but he really had no choice. If he did not agree to take the murdered wizard’s shadow to the distant country of Armyn, the wizard would let him die of starvation. Crocken grudgingly took the wizard’s shadow instead of his own and set out to make the best of it. With the shadow literally hounding his every step, Crocken made the long journey and finally arrived in the country of Armyn only to be faced with the seemingly impossible task of gaining entry into the fortress of Axe-Edge and gathering information from the royal court that resided there. As luck would have it, Crocken managed to save a princess from a wild boar and he found himself hailed as a heroic merchant-adventurer, instead of a luckless peddler without a penny to his name. Crocken thought that he had amply fulfilled his part of the bargain, but the shadow needed him and was not ready to release him.
So Crocken found himself drawn into the intrigues of the court and trying desperately to understand why the shadow bore such hatred for the steward-protector, Rhisiart, who seemed to be a noble and honorable man. Nor could Crocken understand what Prince Kieron was. He appeared to be a man, but evil deeds followed in his wake, always cleverly covered up by his mother, the dowager queen Sulien, but the court heard whispers of deaths and strange habits. Then there was the lovely Mistress Ivy, handmaiden to the princess betrothed to Prince Kieron. She seemed to be privy to more information that Crocken, but he was not sure if he wanted to be involved in her schemes, either. As Crocken finds himself more and more involved in the lives of the ruling class of Armyn, he risks everything that he has to make a difference and to bring some sense of peace to the wizard’s shadow so that they both can move on…
This was another wonderful book by Susan Dexter. I simply loved the main characters and was definitely not ready to let them go – I would love a sequel to this book! Anyway, it was also fun to find out that the princess was one of Tristan’s daughters (The Ring of Allaire, The Sword of Calandra, and The Mountains of Channadran) so that we had a brief glimpse of what he was like as a father. The plot flowed well and had plenty of intriguing little subplots to keep the reader occupied and busy trying to guess who was doing what and where to whom and why. I inhaled the book and now will have to go back and enjoy it again!
This book contains classic fantasy elements including evil villains, magical battles and tales of daring do. There is nothing too scary or explicit. Appropriate for readers ages 10 and up.