Have you ever wanted to simply escape from your current reality?  Perhaps weary of the daily struggles and tedious monotony?  Instead, throwing caution to the wind and choosing an entirely different path.  To abandon the usual comforts of life in order to make such a bold move takes loads of courage and determination.  Something which natural leaders are born with.  In his novel Shadowblade, author Conor Newman introduces just such an individual.  An excellent reading selection for those searching for an action packed fantasy ride… which is driven by a female lead whose character actually personifies courage and determination.

The novel follows the exploits of a young seventeen year old girl named Ysabell.  We first meet her in a rural village where she is working as the local barmaid.  Ysabell has grown frustrated with constantly cleaning up after all the local drunks and fending off their constant advances.  She longs for something else which will allow an escape from such tedious monotony.  As chance would have it, such a wish comes true in the form of a mysterious elven trader who arrives at the village.  He soon convinces Ysabell that she is destined for greatness and together they leave the sleepy village and set off for an adventure.  However, Ysabell is soon to find out that she may have bitten off more than she can chew.  A huge goblin army has amassed under the control of a sinister leader whose ultimate goal is more deadly and evil than anyone can possibly imagine.  First targeting Carraigbán City, the malevolent army leaves a virtual path of destruction in its wake.  Ysabell quickly teams up with a small band of warriors whose main talents and skills not only complement one another- but may actually be the only hope for this world.  How can an impulsive and inexperienced young girl possibly survive in such conditions?  Will Ysabell truly discover the power and mettle which lies beneath her naive surface?  Or is she, and the entire world destined for oblivion?

There can be little doubt that the major theme of Shadowblade is the classic good versus evil one.  However, while that may indeed be the overriding motif, there are a number of secondary ideas which appear as well.  Friendship, loyalty and coming of age, to name a few!  All of this is contained within a story which is virtually non-stop action.  Within this flurry of action and adventure we are able to witness relationships form, strengthen… and in some cases fall apart due to death and destruction.  The reader becomes actively engaged in the various missions, ultimately feeling the thrill of victory and disappointment of defeat.  A thrilling book which allows the reader to escape their own life for a little while and enter into an imaginative world of adventure.

While the plot of the novel is quite well developed- so are the characters.  They are interesting, provocative and memorable.  Not your typical “hero” type of characters who effortlessly ride in to save the day!  Instead, the main players in the story have their own unique strengths and flaws.  They are by no means perfect and this is what makes them believable for the reader.  As the main protagonist we most assuredly see the most growth in Ysabell.  While she begins the tale as a bored and cynical teenager, she morphs into something far more heroic by the end.  It is great to see such a strong female lead take over a book.

Author Conor Newman also does a masterful job in depicting his story world.  To become adequately entrenched in the story, the reader should be able to visualize the fantasy world.  It needs to be believable.  It should be described in some depth in order to accomplish this goal, but not so much that the description becomes tedious.  Newman achieves this balance and is able to do a great job at capturing and holding the reader’s interest.

All in all I would highly recommend this novel to adult fantasy lovers.  It has a Lord of the Rings “flavor” to it- so if that is where your interest lies, you cannot really go wrong.

5 out of 5 Shadowy Stars for this one!