Book Review: Shadow in the Empire of Light by Jane Routley

Shine’s life is usually dull: an orphan without magic in a family of powerful mages, she’s left to run the family estate with only an eccentric aunt and telepathic cat for company.

But when the family descend on the house for the annual Fertility Festival, Shine is plunged into intrigue; stolen letters, a fugitive spy and family drama mix with an unexpected murder, and Shine is forced to decide both her loyalties and future…

This book was a bit of a mixed bag for me, I should have loved it – it has all the elements I usually adore in a fantasy novel but it fell a little flat in places. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy it, I did. It’s possible I expected too much from it going in.

I found it much more enjoyable once I sat down and read it in a long stint rather than a chapter or so at a time, the story just seemed to flow better once you were immersed in it.

There was a lot to like here as well though. Once I got my head round who everybody was there were a lot of people all at once who were known by name and nickname), the family inteague was messy and interesting to try and unpick.

The politics of magic and the class systems that magic created were well done. The system felt realistic with its rules and expectations. Also the world as a whole was interesting, we learn that not all the world works to the same system, indeed the neighboring lands (that we don’t get to see but do get to hear about). There is clearly a lot more world to explore here.

One of the things that drew me to this book was the promise of a telepathic cat – I’m a complete sucker for animal companions. Sadly our cat seemed to disappear for a large chunk of the story and felt rather underused. When she was about, she was of course awesome.

This book is a lot darker in theme than the rather lovely cover makes it look. There is child abuse, murder, gay bashing (also acceptance, the bashing is from certain characters) and coercive sex.

All in all a middle of the road read for me.

With thanks to Rebellion Publishing for sending me a copy for review.

Shadow in the Empire of Light is available as an e-book now and paperback in Jan 2021.

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