Feast of the King's Shadow

by Chaz Brenchley

Cover image

Series: Outremer #4
Publisher: Ace
Copyright: 1999
Printing: July 2003
ISBN: 0-441-01098-9
Format: Mass market
Pages: 262

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This is the fourth book of the US printing of the Outremer series (which is six books in the US and three books in Britain, and some of the titles are reused, so be cautious). You don't want to read it without reading the previous books in the series.

It's hard to summarize the plot of a book late in a series without spoiling the earlier books, but I can say that this book takes place in the Outremer equivalent to the buried city of Petra, and the descriptions are beautiful. We also finally meet Julianne's mysterious father, and find out more about the politics and culture of the desert tribes.

I wasn't positive with the last book, but this series is definitely getting better as it goes along. The immaturity and annoying traits of the main characters from the first and second books are nearly gone, the characters are maturing in a way that's rare in series of this sort, and the magic of the world is gathering more depth and glimmers of structure. I quite liked this installment, even if this book does still suffer from longish stretches where nothing much happens other than emotional wheel-spinning.

Particularly memorable is the twist with the djinni (which I won't spoil) that brings more of the main characters into direct play and relevance to what will happen through the rest of the series. That's a distinct positive to this series — all of the main characters are developing strong and independent roles, all going in different directions but all with a significant ability to influence the course of the plot. I don't feel like any of then are extraneous or duplicates of others.

There continues to be a significant romantic subplot to these books (unsurprising, given that Brenchley has experience with writing romance), but so far I'm mostly liking it and at least not minding it. The romantic interludes and emotional explorations are, for the most part, well-paced and brief, and there's a nice twist of homosexuality that's well-handled and neither exploited nor ignored.

So far, I've not been particularly recommending this series, but if the conclusion stays as good or even gets better, it might be worth reading the less-powerful earlier books for the ending.

Followed by Hand of the King's Evil.

Rating: 7 out of 10

Reviewed: 2004-07-05

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