SHADOWBLADE by Anna Kashina.
Angry Robot Books. p/b. £8.99.
Reviewed by Elloise Hopkins.
The day after the sun festival Gassan hears a woman sobbing and heads for the Daljeer command centre, shocked to find dead bodies on his way. Bodies bearing red cloaks, which can only mean one thing: they belong to the queen’s royal guard. The royal family has been betrayed and Gassan finds himself a keen player in the kingdom’s future.
Naia, luckily skilled enough to snatch the blades from the air, analyses her attacker, and his blade. A Daljeer. What does he want with her? But she has bigger problems. Naia’s time as a trainee may be about to come to an end… against her will. She is highly skilled but her fight outside of the practice range could be punishable by expulsion without rank.
Jai Karrim answers the headmaster’s summons, little knowing what dilemma he will find within. Now a complicated and controversial decision rests on his shoulders and he has but one day to draw his conclusion. The fate of a young girl lies with him, and he will get more than he bargained for when he finally meets her.
A new story from the writer of the Majat Code series, Shadowblade begins with Gassan’s discovery of the dead royal guards and then tracks forward in time 17 years where the true heir to the throne has yet to be discovered and another sits the imperial throne.
As you would expect from Kashina this is a highly readable story packed with political machinations, swordplay and a heady and lustful romance, which at times strays more towards the adult end of young adult fiction, depicting the desperate and immediate desire and discovery of young love.
The narrative is focused predominantly on Naia as she comes to terms with her fate and her future, with Karrim and Gassan taking point of view roles throughout allowing the reader deeper insight into her relationship with each and the wider concerns of the political situation. There are a few surprises along the way and a good pace is maintained throughout.