Watcher of the Dead has a momentum that’s like watching black clouds grow in mass for a storm you just know will be enormous.
In a world fraught with clan wars and military invasions, the individual power struggles grow even more desperate as the ancient evil called the Endlords opens a breach into existence. Sadaluk No Ears, the Listener for the Ice Trapper people, may never return from a dangerous trek into the frozen wastes. Raif Sevrance, now possessing the sword called Loss, is learning the hard way what it means to be the Watcher of the Dead. Ash March must choose a Sull name, and even though she is finally in the land of her new people, she still finds no safe haven. Raina Blackhail becomes more entrenched in treason against her husband, the chief of the Clan Blackhail. Bram Dhoone begins his training as a member of the Phage, a clandestine group dedicated to defending against the Endlords.
Meanwhile, Angus Lok proves just how dangerous a Phage can be, as he must go rogue to protect his daughter. With the return of the Endlords, Vaylo Bludd, the war-hardened chief of Clan Bludd, may be forced into another treacherous alliance. Little Effie Sevrance discovers that she also has a significant role as she investigates the curse of Clan Grey, who has taken her captive. And the Sull, well, the Sull are just “bad-to-the bone.”
J.V. Jones paints a world of wild artic forests, frozen wastelands, snow-capped mountains and — just south of the Clanholds — an occasional frontier city. Knowing that I was returning to her world, I felt cold before I even opened the book.
In fact, it’s the believability that makes this all so much fun. J.V. Jones knows this world like she’s lived there. She’s a master with little details and uses them cleverly — never too much and written in a simple matter-of-fact way. I’d love to know where she gets her inspirations, because it’s all so fascinating.
SWORD OF SHADOWS is written in a multi-person point-of-view format, but unlike many fantasy epics that have the occasional “filler” chapters devoted to a character that’s not particularly interesting, every SWORD OF SHADOWS character is exciting. Because of this, the reader is eager to start each new chapter. Even their names are flat-out-cool and they’re easily pronounceable, which (fantasy authors please take note) makes the reading flow effortlessly.
I’ve read all of J.V. Jones’ books and thoroughly enjoyed each one, but with the SWORD OF SHADOWS she proves that she can stand up to any of today’s popular fantasy authors. Watcher of the Dead reinforces my belief that this series should be getting as much notoriety as George R.R. Martin’s A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE or Steven Erikson’s MALAZAN BOOK OF THE FALLEN.