A Tale of Light and Shadow series by Jacob Gowans is one of my new favorites in the fantasy genre. I will readily admit I am not a huge fan of fantasy, though I have read quite a bit of it. But these first two books (yes, there will be a third) A Tale of Light and Shadow, and Secrets of Neverak had me reading too late and up too early to see what’s going to happen next.
I will readily admit that one of the things I liked most about them is that they read almost more like historical fiction. The medieval setting makes the magic elements seem very natural to the story. The fantasy is more natural to the story than the main focus of it.
It did not take me long to feel that book lover’s bond with our main characters, Henry and Isabelle and their traveling companions. In the first book A Tale of Light and Shadow, Henry and Isabelle and their friends must flee for their lives after Henry risks everything rescuing Isabelle from the evil Emperor Krallick. The book follows their perilous journey—and I have to say, I wasn’t expecting the ending.
Gowans’ character development is excellent. The characters are very three-dimensional and we come to know them gradually, just as we would get to know a person in real life. Their personalities continue to develop throughout the books, with both strengths and flaws revealed along the way.
I highly recommend reading these books in order. Unlike many series novels, the author does not spend a great deal of time reminding the reader of the events of the previous book. Personally, I like that because I am too impatient a reader to spend time wading through recaps. I like a series that just continues on in a seamless story.
Book Two, Secrets of Neverak, begins with an injured Henry struggling to recover after a disastrous battle at Iron Pass where Isabelle was captured by Emperor Krallick, intent on making Isabelle one of his concubines.
It is up to Henry, James, Maggie and Ruther to save Isabelle and to thwart the Emperor’s plan to conquer all of Atolas. Henry has been badly wounded, forcing him more than ever to rely on his friends. The cast changes slightly in the second book and more characters are introduced throughout the second book. Of course, the big question both we—and Henry & his band—must determine is whether they are friend or foe. Danger, intrigue and adventure await.
As in the first book, magic is the undercurrent to the story and not an overtly central element. For me, that made this story much more interesting as it encourages the reader to think and look and wonder and imagine as they read. The plot is never predictable, in either book, another element that makes the story far more interesting and engaging.
And finally, the end was again definitely not what I was expecting. But I’ll leave you to discover that for yourself.
Both A Tale of Light and Shadow and A Tale of Light and Shadow: Secrets of Neverak are available through Amazon.com or at your favorite bookstore (and if they aren’t at your favorite bookstore, you may need to have a chat with the bookseller).