Shadowbred by Paul S. Kemp, is the first book in the Twilight Wars trilogy. This book follows the path of a character from a previous trilogy; The Erevis Cale trilogy, the three books in that set are: Twilight Falling, Dawn of Night, and Midnight's Mask. I would encourage anyone who has not read those three books to do so before reading this new book. Otherwise things may not make as much sense, such as characters motivations, some of the backstories etc. They are all very good reads so don't worry, you will enjoy it.
Few authors in the fantasy genre today have solid characters and a solid plot interwoven. Usually it is either really good characters or a really good plot. Mr. Kemp has the ability to weave the two together seamlessly. This allows for a deeper feeling of the book and a better understanding of what is going on. Readers are more able to become invested in the characters as well as caring about what is going on in the story.
The characters in this book are old hat. Some are characters from the first trilogy, Cale, Riven, Mags, etc. While there are now some new characters thrown into the mix for good measure. All of the characters in this book `feels' like a different person. Some books each character is the same except in different skin. Some books have cliché ridden characters as well, not so here. Mr. Kemp also has a way of introducing depth to his characters in ways that are not usually seen in fantasy novels. For instance, Riven and his girls. A great way to show some of the underlying feelings characters has. As well as, Cale's emotional turmoil over a specific event from the last trilogy. Mr. Kemp has created several truly memorable characters.
The plot of this book is not your typical - get a task - get a party - kill something - live happily ever after. There is political intrigue, posturing by nobles, self discovery, and yeah - some killing. I have heard that this series will be what is called a Realms Shaking Event, meaning the outcome of this trilogy will have an impact over all of the Forgotten Realms, I think that RSE is that Sembia is being thrown into a civil war. This war will have consequences that will transcend the entire setting. I am eagerly awaiting the next two books to watch this unfold. Yet, that is not all for this book's plotlines. There are several subplots all expertly woven together to offer seamless transitions. Cale is searching for a friend, Cale has returned to help old friends, and Cale is also trying to keep a promise to another friend, all the time a god, or two, has their hands mixed into the batter to make sure things don't go as planned.
The combination of the great characters and the fantastic storylines make this book a true marvel to read. It challenges the reader to put it down. Mr. Kemp's prose allow for easy reading, and his descriptions are just enough to help me `see' but not enough to bog me down with useless details. Mr. Kemp has proven himself to be one of the Forgotten Realms most talented writers and I can only imagine were his books will go from here.
I do have one criticism about this book though. There are a couple scenes that are done in first person, while the rest of the book is more traditional. I have never been a fan of first person books, or scenes, so when I got to these scenes it was hard for me to read them. It didn't feel right with how the rest of the story flowed. It, at times, jarred me out of reading and I had to really work at reading them. Personally, I hope these scenes are done, but I can also see how others may appreciate them. It just didn't work for me.
Overall, I think this was a fantastic book, and certainly a start to a great trilogy. I would recommend Mr. Kemp's books to anyone who enjoys fantasy. Certainly, fans of the Forgotten Realms will appreciate the lore that he adds for good measure. People thinking about starting to read fantasy, or start reading the Forgotten Realms should really look into Mr. Kemp's earlier works to get a feel. I have no doubt, that if they do, they will keep reading. A very entertaining read.