By: Allegra Pescatore
Genre: Gaslamp/Epic Fantasy
Publisher: AO Collective Publishing
Shown on page: Ableism; Child abduction (described briefly, non-graphic); Drug use (medically necessary); Torture, including mild gore
Alluded to: Sexual assault (assumed, not actual); A culture with mild” Sexism & Racism; Infidelity
Where Shadows Lie, by Allegra Pescatore, is an excellent epic fantasy brimming with richly developed characters, political intrigue, betrayal, love, and a unique magic system. It is the story of Elenor Lirion, daughter of a despotic king who is the target of assassination by non-other than his son, Wilam. The failed attempt leaves Wilam dead, and our main protagonist the new presumptive heir of the Lirin Kingdom. Where Shadows Lie is truly a page turning adventure, and once you think you know everything is in place, Ms. Pescatore expertly twists the story and adds another layer. Elenor is disabled from “wasting” disease that she had as a child, and it affects her legs. She sometimes needs to use a cane, or in severe pain, a wheelchair. Elenor is a strong female protagonist, even though she often doesn’t realize her own strength. She is in love with a young noble woman, Claire, who is tough and extremely protective of her. What I liked is that her protectiveness comes from her love of Elenor and not from her disability. I loved to see a protagonist that is both gay and disabled, as it helps to make the fantasy genre more inclusive.
I found one of the strong points in this book the character development. First, of course, is Elenor, who gets caught up in the politics and abuse of her father, Markus-Miri Lirin, the King of Lirin. He is cruel and the target of a growing rebellion he will crush at all costs. Ms. Pescatore paints a vivid picture of him and how horrible he is, and the reader feels no sympathy for him. Gabriel, the second main protagonist, is one of the leaders of the rebellion who is caught, imprisoned, and tortured in exceptionally horrific ways, but kept alive so he can keep being tortured. The King wants it this way and takes pleasure in doing so. Daemon Indigo is perhaps the most complex of all of them. He has lived for 500 years, but how he became immortal, he does not know, but his magic is powerful. Daemon is a morally gray character. His background and the things he did were cruel. He has, for the most part, tried to make amends for his past. I feel that he is the type of person where one would ask: Do we judge a person for what they have done in their past, or the person they have become? Daemon is certainly a morally gray character.
Other main characters are Fayrian, the leader of the rebellion, and lover of Gabriel. She is a complex character, a strong and tough fighter, but with secrets that are revealed in the story. Fedrik Tellen, also part of the rebellion and the son of a noble house, he was made Captain of the Guard until the assassination attempt. It is revealed that he is part of the rebellion, but is also so much more that he is yet to find out. Paul, Elenor’s doena, is her bodyguard. However, he is more than that to her. Having been with her since she was born, they have more of a father-daughter relationship. He is always with her, watching over her, and would give his life for his talidaar, his cherished one. I loved Paul’s steadfast devotion to Elenor and the beautiful relationship they have. She is one of the people, along with Claire, that she trusts completely. Last, we have Robin, Dean of the magic school, the Colleges of Tirit Mindel. He is smart, crafty, and carries tremendous weight with the court as Tirit Mindel is a powerful ally.
The magic system is quite imaginative and unique. Not everyone possesses magic, but it manifests as “gifts” or “rifters”. The gifts one has takes various forms. For instance, a “Ghoster” has the ability to pull magic from another, a “Namer” sees, and “Archivists” can recall. There are a total of 18 gifts. Rifters are powerful and can access the plane with endless supplies of magic. They can store magic, and can turn magical energy into physical energy. This was system that I felt worked on many scientific principles, so I found it highly intriguing. Wells of energy are stored within the user, and if not controlled, can have devasting effects. Both Gabriel and Daemon are rifters, while Fayrian and Fedrik have gifts. The complexity of the magic system is amazing, and as the book progresses it gets even more complex. However, it is never confusing.
The pacing and prose of the story was exceptional. It is a wild ride from the first page to the last. There was never a time where nothing was happening. They story drives forward at an even pace, and I was always eager to find out what would happen next. The narrative is told from the third person of the main characters. Chapters are devoted to each one, and in them, we get to know them, what they are thinking, and how they feel. In such a layered story, this choice of narrative was excellent. When a chapter left off with one character, it is always a bit of a cliffhanger. It keeps the reader engaged and wanting to find out what will happen when we meet them again. Did I mention dragons? This book has wonderful dragons. Mock dragons, which are trainable, can be ridden. They are a delight. The other dragons are the Dragon Gods, each representing a different trait and each one is worshipped independently by the people of Lirin. For example, Elenor worships the Blue Dragon, the Goddess of Bravery and Justice. There are five Dragon Gods, none of which are very likeable. Ms. Pescatore writes the characters and the story so beautifully. When the characters interact, we feel their emotions and reactions.
Where Shadows Lie is an excellent, unique fantasy. Ms. Pescatore writes exceptional characters in Elenor, Claire, Gabriel, Fayrian, Fedrik and Daemon. They are complex, and when we first meet them, who they are is straightforward. However, as the story develops, she expertly peels back the layer of each, revealing who they really are and the secrets they keep. Elenor is gay and disabled from a childhood disease. While she does not always need assistance, she often relies on a cane or wheelchair. This was a welcome addition the fantasy genre to have a disabled main protagonist, and LBGTQ representation. The pacing and the prose were excellent. Where Shadows Lie had so many twists and turns, I could not stop reading, as I wanted to know what was going to happen to the characters. Each chapter is told by a different main character, so we get to know them very well by the end of the story. Ms, Pescatore keeps the reader not only engaged, but always trying to guess what will come next. And the dragons. Who doesn’t love a fantasy that has dragons? This was an amazing fantasy read. I highly recommend Where Shadows Lie, and the second book, Whispers of Stone. I am looking forward the third book, These Gossamer Strings, which comes out in July.
Summary (from Escapist Book Tours)
The Chosen One is Dead.
Disabled since childhood, his little sister never expected the weight of a crown. Now, she might lose it before ever sitting on the throne. Beset by rebels, scheming politicians, and cutthroat bankers, Elenor must choose between accepting her father’s despotic rule or risking everything for her late brother’s lofty ideals.
Meanwhile, from the rainy streets of Lirin to the scorching dunes of the Mondaer Desert, the ripples of her actions have inadvertently broken a chain of events five centuries in the making. Ancient forces move in the shadows, calling in debts and striking deals. A monster with a thousand faces fingers his knife, ready to kill, and a pair of fugitives run for their lives, unaware of the danger they carry with them.
Where Shadows Lie is a non-stop epic fantasy ride, featuring an lgbtq+ and disabled protagonist and filled with court intrigue, sizzling romance, and adorable baby dragons. Dive in and get swept away!
My sincere thanks to Escapist Tours for providing me and eBook in exchange for an honest review