Book Review: Shadow Prowler by Alexey Pehov

Shadow Prowler was published in Russia in 2002 and only translated this year. I wish they had translated the whole series (from what I can gather, its quite popular in Russia) in one go, because I’m rather hooked and can’t wait to see what happens next. I found this novel on the ‘new books’ shelf at the library and grabbed it – it totally satisfies my cravings for decent, original, fast-paced fantasy and my obsession with anything Russian!

The story is about Harold, a master thief, who is commissioned by the king to sneak into an ancient tomb which has been overrun by an unnamed evil in order to recast the binding spells keeping a vengeful wizard and his rampaging army out of the kingdom. In the meantime, there seems to be a new threat arising in the mysterious Master, who has spies and minions everywhere. Harold sets out with an unlikely bunch of companions – a group of soldiers, magical elves, the kings jester and a long-dead archwizard who only exists inside Harold’s head. When the elves cast a spell in order to help Harold enter the tomb, Harold finds himself reliving memories that don’t belong to him. In order to survive the journey and the task which lays at the end of the road, Harold will have to piece together the puzzles of the past and gather every skill he has ever learned and even perhaps listen to a nonsensical prophecy sung by a tiny green man wearing a jesters bell cap.

It takes a few chapters to get used to how this book is written. It’s in first person but also completely in present tense. While this makes somethings a little hard to follow, it has the advantage of drawing you right into the story. The little flashbacks are put in chapters of their own, in italics, so it’s easy to see how they are separate from the main story, but get interwoven in. the characters are well drawn and the development of Harold and Kli-Kli and the relationship between them is just so rich and intricate, you feel like you have known them for a lot longer than one book. the mythology is fantastic, drawn partially from Russian mythology and partially from Pehov’s brilliant mind. I really can’t wait for the next installment to be translated. Andrew Bromfield has done a fantastic job and the prose is flowing and melodic throughout – I couldn’t even tell it was a translation. Some beautiful little pieces of prose make your heart sing and your mind forget that you’re reading fantasy, not high literature. Even people who don’t appreciate the fantasy genre (get OFF my blog!) will enjoy this tale – while it does have elves and orcs and shamanism, it also has brilliant renderings of tactical battles and gorgeous descriptions of landscapes and a heavy dose of breathtaking adventure.

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