This is a free download from Alexey Pehov that features two, original, short stories about master thief Shadow Harold. Harold is the protagonist of The Chronicles of Siala fantasy series.
In the standalone story “The Snake,” Harold takes a lucrative contract to steal something, but, once at the scene of the prospective crime, he discovers the item is somewhat unorthodox and a tad bit more dangerous than he had been led to believe. In fact, the situation is so hairy that even our master thief is unsure if he can fulfill his contract and escape with his life.
Having no experience with Harold or The Chronicles of Siala , I came into this read without any pre-conceived desire to enjoy this story, but quickly, the first-person narrative and snarky voice of Harold drew me in, and the introduction to this fantasy world piqued my interest enough for me to consider giving the Siala series a try. Overall, I enjoyed “The Snake” and would give it a solid, 3 star rating as a standalone story.
The second short story is the “Battle of the Margend Horseshoe,” which is labeled as an additional scene from the novel Shadow Blizzard. Here Harold and his companions are preparing for a major attack on the Orc army after having cornered their enemies at the Margend Horseshoe river bend. Thereafter, a fast-paced and exciting battle takes place.
This one was a bit more difficult for me to get interested in due to my lack of knowledge about the events leading to this point, and quickly, I felt a bit lost in all the history and strong feelings of the characters. Not to say I didn’t enjoy the tale itself, but rather that I didn’t enjoy it as much as I would have if I’d read all the lead up to this clash of peoples. So, “Battle of the Margend Horseshoe” gets a 2 star rating.
Overall, you can’t beat two, free stories, especially if you’d like to try Mr. Pehov’s work and see if it is to your tastes. However, I can’t rate the compilation as anything but “Okay,” because of the letdown of the second story.