Sarah Lin's The Brightest Shadow
The Chosen One trope is delightfully flipped on its head.
Disclaimer: the thoughts in this review come from reading only the first book of the series. I have not read ‘A Hollow Mountain’, yet.
I enjoyed the read of The Brightest Shadow a few weeks ago during my end of year holiday. I’d been slowly making my way through the novel for a month or so before that, as I initially struggled with the slower pacing of the work. In that way, it reminds me a lot of A Thousand Li (in that I struggled with the slice-of-life plodding along). The further through the book I made it, the more it picked up, so stick with it.
So, what exactly happens? Minor super broad spoilers ahead, giving away only a bit more than the blurb itself does.
The book follows the main characters of Tani and Slaten. Tani is on her Farwalk (coming of age, go-see-the-world journey), and is travelling from her tribe to a Big City in a classic delivery quest. Don’t worry, that doesn’t come into the plot. This city is controlled by another race (the Mansthein), and there is a lot of tension between humans and mansthein. The conflict between the two groups is the central piece to the book.
But fear not, for the Hero will soon be along to liberate the humans and cast out the oppressors. Who is this Hero, and what happens after they die? How the Legend (aka classic prophecy of a chosen one) plays out and operates is by far the most interesting thing in the book, and saying any more would be a spoiler.
As the book explores the new take on the trope, Tani and Slaten do various tasks, align with various groups, etc. Meandering plot stuff, and the initial half of the book I almost put down because I wasn’t drawn in by those plot points. Four hundred odd pages of mundane activities are not fun to read.
On the character side, there is character development, but the first half of the book (and it’s a big book) is spent establishing things. I definitely think a lot could be shortened down to make things a bit zippier. Aside from the sole exception of Kolanin as an interesting character, most of them fade into the background. Or to put this another way, in many other books I end up rooting for the main character. Zorian, Lindon, Hugh, Rei, Corin, I want them to succeed. I never felt any of that with Tani or Slaten, which is a real shame.
I’m unsure if I’ll read through the next book at this point, it will all depend on the reviews and if the plot pacing points are fixed. But if don’t mind a slower plot, if you enjoyed things like A Thousand Li, or even Forge of Destiny (which has its slice of life), then you’ll probably enjoy this one too.