Series: Chronicles of the Necromancer
Publisher: Solaris (June 14, 2016)
Length: 384 pages
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars.
Never having read Gail Z. Martin’s Chronicles of the Necromancer, I went into this short story collection with a completely open mind, determined not to let the author get my stamp of approval just because I’m a fan of her other works. Obviously, I was hoping and expecting to like The Shadowed Path, because I generally do like whatever Martin releases, but even I was surprised how much I enjoyed my introduction to Jonmarc Vanhanian.
It all begins with Jonmarc as a teenager living a fairly peaceful and idyllic life in a small, fishing village. His father is the local blacksmith; his mother is the master of the household; and young Jonmarc’s path in life seems set to follow in their footsteps. That is until a brutal attack by raiders destroys everything, sending the lone survivor down a far different path.
At first, things appear to normalize for our young man. He is taken in by a family in a neighboring village, joins in their way of life, and even settles down as a married man with a baby on the way. All this new responsibility driving Jonmarc to scrounge around for every silver coin he can make, which causes him to make a decision which destroys everything yet again. This final, horrifying event sending our bereaved youth running across the kingdom as part of a traveling troupe. Among these other refugees from society, our young hero hopes to escape his past, see the world outside his tiny corner of the realm, and find the place he is meant to be. But little does he know everything he is soon to experience!
Written as a series of stand alone chapters in Jonmarc’s early adult years, these stories are like snapshots of his life pinned into a scrapbook, bulging with adventure after adventure as he encounters bitter lose, deep emotional attachment, caring friends, wise mentors, and constant life lessons. Time and again our young hero is forced to accept the harsh realities of life, learn from his and others mistakes, rise above his limitations, and continue to fight to discover contentment and purpose in a life he never wanted. All of it slowly shaping him into the man he will eventually become.
Besides the wonderful character study of Jonmarc, what I thoroughly enjoyed here was the subtle worldbuilding by Gail Z. Martin. Constrained by length limitations (Hey, I was not making any sort of joke there, so don’t take it that way.), she still managed to create real atmosphere, believable tension, and litter the pages with different flavors of this fantasy society including magical and mythical beings from werewolves and vampires to necromancers and ghosts; all them seamlessly integrated into society in a way which made them seem as real and normal as blacksmiths, tanners, or potters.
Even better for all those prospective readers out there, no prior knowledge of Martin’s Chronicles of the Necromancer is required to enjoy this collection. Each of the stories are self-contained episodes, which easily stand on their own. Definitely, certain themes run through all the tales, but those are more matters of continuity and connection rather than an endless lure to force readers to pick up Chronicles to get all the”real” answers. So don’t let your lack of experience with this series hold you back at all from trying this one out.
Action. Adventure. Tragedy. Humor. Camaraderie. Magical creatures. Coming-of-age themes. Ghostly mayhem. The Shadowed Path has all these things and more; Gail Z. Martin using each to fully entertainment her readers, even as she slowly persuades them that this Jonmarc Vanhanian is someone they really need to read more about.
I received this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review. I’d like to thank them for allowing me to receive this review copy and inform everyone that the review you have read is my opinion alone.