Thursday 6 October 2011

Review: The Shadowed Path - Simon Stone

Book 1 of the Archwood Chronicles
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: Ebook (130.000 words)
Published: September 2011
Source: For review
Review by Anachronist

Synopsis (partially from Goodreads):
 In the west the ancient empire of Prast crumbles, remaining strongly of the late Roman Empire. To the east an upstart nation of sun worshipers spread their heathen ways, swallowing up city-states and small kingdoms as they tread ever closer to Prast’s borders. War is inevitable. And yet, war is as nothing compared to the greatest danger.

Prast is inhabited by humans and inhumani. Inhumani have bone white hair and black eyes, differing from normal people and allegedly they are physically unable to harm normal people. They are slaves and gifts from gods. It’s been so for several thousands of years. They can defend themselves only against Shadowland’s beasts not against humans. If they kill a human they get Bloodguilt and go crazy. It’s been always like that but now the time for change has come and nobody is expecting it. Almost nobody.

A merchant called Tyacles with a young man, Markus Aklaes, and a caravan in tow get lost while crossing Shadowlands. A band of strange inhumani saves their lives but then, as soon as they find out the merchants have been tricked into employing normal humans dressed as Darkbloods, they kill some of the humans, apparently not having any problems with it. Shocked Tyacles and Markus run into the jungle of Shadowlands to save their life. They manage to survive and return home but only after some years. They are happy to be alive but it is not the end of bad news. Markus’s father is dead and his fortune and his second wife -gone. Shadowlands are spreading. Nobody cares.

Only one man carries the key to stopping the Shadowland’s progress. A man battered and scarred from his years alone in its deadly grasp. His name is Parellio, he used to be one of the greatest Darkblood warriors and now he is mad because he killed humans. To get back into the track he must first make a friend of his greatest enemy…and then he must enter the Shadowland again. 

What I liked:

An interesting mixture of the culture of ancient Rome (very prominent), that of Latin America Aztecs (definitely less detailed) and pure fantasy made this world a joy to discover.

Markus’s plight earned my sympathy and after Sheena/Jinx entered the scene things became really interesting -  enough to draw me into the whole narration. I like characters who have to carve a place for themselves, who bear a grudge, are tightly-wound and motivated. What’s more Sheena starts to suffer from a form of schizophrenia, no matter whether drug-induced or shock-induced or both but very logical and understandable after everything she’d been through. It makes her an interesting heroine, far from flawless but great to read about.

I also liked Parellio Redhand and his Darkblood kin, so skilled and intelligent yet so helpless when facing their masters. I wanted them to stand on their own so much. Soft-hearted, that’s me. ;)

What I didn’t like:

In short editing. At the beginning it was difficult to get into the book because the author changed POVs too many times and too quickly; too many new names and places swirling around made me confused. Overall I had an impression that the plot was sometimes almost overflowing as if the author tried to cram too much info into every chapter. When I come to think of it, there’s enough plot material for not one but two installments – first could e.g. present the whole four-year period of Marcus adventures in the Shadowland, only glossed over,  and the second would be about his return to Prast and the rest of the story. I don’t doubt a good editor would suggest such a division and the novel would benefit from it.

What’s more the author keeps adding new characters almost to the very end, when the only thing you would like is to follow the progress of Markus, Sheena and Lokan, Markus’s trusted friend. I don’t know if it is true for everybody but in my case such a narrative style causes additional confusion, making me want to skim the text or even dump the book. Finally there is a cliffhanger at the end because it is just the first book in the Archwood Chronicles. I hate cliffies.

Final verdict:

It was a good story. It could have been brilliant if the author had been given a piece of advice  or two from a professional editor. I wish Mr. Stone all the luck of finding such an editor in the future – his next books certainly deserve it.


Let me introduce you all to my new guest reviewer Anachronist! *applauds* I hunted her down and begged her to review books for me ;)

She has her own blog, Books as Portable pieces of Thoughts and you will see her around now and then. She had sent me a bio, that I can't find, oh the evilness of modern inboxes. So I can just say what I want ;) She is funny, she is brutally honest, she writes these smart essays on her blog that are just excellent. She does not read a lot of romance, she often call the books I read fluffy and pink, but I am sure we all can tempt her to read more (she already read some, and should read more mowuahahahaha). And best of all, her reviews always make me smile (but I love the negative ones ;)


  1. *waves to Anachronist* :)

    Also - that cover and that back...oh baby

  2. LOL, I don't think I have ever heard of the word 'inhumani' before! I want to use it in a sentence.

  3. awww that's too bad about the editing. i've read books where i've felt they needed better editing too.

  4. I'm not sure this would be for me. I get discouraged when too much is going on in the beginning or when too many characters are involved. It's nice to get a handle on what the story is about before it gets too confusing. Great thoughts on the book and I kind of think the cover is cool.

  5. Sloppy POV changes can be frustrating, but it does sound like an interesting story overall...Great honest review! :)

  6. In, the last two reviews I wrote (but haven’t posted), I also wrote about editing. One was an excellent example of great editing while the other could have used a more vigorous editor. Sometimes, the difference between a great idea and poor book is simply editing.

  7. Too many POVs and count me out. Thanks for the guest review!

  8. Thank you so much Ana!
    And I can't believe I lost the email with your little bio. I might just have too many folders

  9. Hello everybody!
    *waves madly*

    Thank you for a very warm welcome!

    @Vivienne - 'inhumani' clearly comes from Latin and it is indeed a nice word.

    @Carrie - I couldn't agree more. Bad editing is...well...bad. ;)

    @Darlene - thanks for your comment, the cover is cool but at the beginning you feel as if you were thrown into a whirlwind...

    @Lea - thank you, interesting it was!

    @Stephanie - you are perfectly right, editing can make or break a book.

    @Staci - you are welcome!

    @Blodeuedd - thanks for having me! You lost my bio? I can't believe it! Too bad, really! It was unique! I am not sure I can write it for the second time...;) I suppose we will have to make do without it after all...

  10. Yikes! With all those characters and POV shifts, I probably wouldn't enjoy this one too much. But I do like the Hot cover. :)

  11. Welcome Anachronist!

    Great Review and I hear ya on the editing! I read a lot of indie books so I've gotten used to some poor editing. I just finished the new Blue Blood book, Lost in Time and there were quite a few errs in there, as well.

    I get confused when they throw to many characters at me at once. I like a nice even flow, introduce them quickly, sure, but don't hurl them at me :o]

    Thanks for sharing, I enjoyed it :o]

  12. Welcome Anachronist!

    Great Review and I hear ya on the editing! I read a lot of indie books so I've gotten used to some poor editing. I just finished the new Blue Blood book, Lost in Time and there were quite a few errs in there, as well.

    I get confused when they throw to many characters at me at once. I like a nice even flow, introduce them quickly, sure, but don't hurl them at me :o]

    Thanks for sharing, I enjoyed it :o]

  13. WHATTTTTT?????? I'm so upset! YOU got a bio????

    *glares at Anachronist*

    Well, it was a good review despite the fact that I never got a bio. *sniff* ;)

    I do think that some times a good editor is worth it's weight in gold. Makes the difference sometimes.

    *mumbles* bio *mumbles more* hee hee...

  14. Oh this is a new book for me. :) And Blodeuedd.... did you snag Ana from Melissa (Books&Things)? hee hee. ;D Thanks for intro to a new book. Sorry the pov changed so quickly thought.

  15. Sounds good, although not my kind of book :)

  16. I'll be looking forward to your reviews :) Too many characters in a story confuse me since I have to keep flipping back to previous pages to remember who they are and when I get to the next in the series I have usually forgotten about them entirely.

  17. @ Missie - the cover is uhmm... nice. ;)

    @Kristi - yes, poor editing is one of the biggest flaws of indie books. Not every author can be a good editor of his or her own text.

    @ Melissa (BaT)- oh dear, do not desperate, she lost it anyway so the outcome is the same as if she didn't get it at all...*snickering in the corner*

    @Melissa (My World...) - yes, it's the same old Ana...the life of harem was boring so I decided to change scenery and move to a castle!

    @Yvonne - thanks for your comment!

    @JennyN - thank you, my pleasure! Too many characters is a real drag.

  18. Hi everyone, I’m Simon, the author of The Shadowed Path. First and most importantly of all, thanks for liking my back. I put a lot more of myself into that cover than most writers!
    I’d like to thank Anachronist for her review. I’m amazed you read and reviewed it as quickly as you did! Even if the main character’s name is spelt incorrectly! ;)
    From following the comments I think that some might have got the wrong idea about Anachronist’s issues. I think I’m right in saying her issues were focused on the structural decisions I took (initial rapid POV changes etc), and not grammatical/prose errors. I did employ an editor.
    Lastly I’d like to clarify that the reason I introduce new characters close to the end and miss out a four-year section of Marcus’ life is because the novel is very much part of a series. It sets up the sequel, which goes back and focuses on the missed four-year period and further develops the newer characters.
    In closing, considering this review wasn’t exactly stellar, if anyone reading this would like a free copy to judge for themselves, drop me an email at: and I will happily send you one.

  19. Ana
    I know! It was such a masterpiece, I read it and thought, oh this I have to submit to the Nobel Prize committee ;)
    Shame on me!

  20. Melissa World
    Hehe, I totally did :) I tempted her with cookies and free books. It was an offer she could not refuse

  21. Welcome Anachronist! Love your reviews and blog, I'm now following :)

    Too bad about the bad editing. I want to read this book, but I really hate it when there's too much going on at the beginning. I get confused and lose interest. Maybe I will get it just for the sake of it.

  22. Hello Mr Stone, how nice to have an author comment my work. First let me say that I am so very sorry I misspelt poor Marcus's name. I always appreciate a fair assessment of my humble work and my heart bleeds that, similarly to my opinion about your novel, you didn't find it exactly stellar. It's good to hear you actually employ an editor - let's hope the next part will be better. It can be better for sure, like my reviews. I also always encourage my readers to read the reviewed book on their own, no matter my opinion about it so here we are unanimous again. ;) All the best!

    @Blodeuedd - you did what? Oh dear,THAT'S WHY I got a phone call today from SWEDEN... :D

  23. It does sounds a little confusing. I understand that part of that has to do maybe with it being just the first in a series, but I do prefer books that stand on their own, too, not as just an installment.

  24. Nice review Anachronist, but for now, I'll pass on this one.

    I hope to read more lovely reviews by your hand here as well.

  25. @ Hilda - thanks for following; do get the book if you think you might like it :)

    @carol - my thoughts exactly; even if it is just the first part of a series it should be better spaced and more readable.

    @Aurian - thanks for your warm welcome, more reviews will come for sure!

  26. Mandi, Viv, Carrie

    Darlene, Lea, Steph, Staci
    *waves some more*

    Hot is always good ;)

    There are mistakes in that one too? They do creep in here and there. It only bothers me if there are too many.

    Yvonne, Jenny N :)

    Omg! I have not seen you in ages! Well on FB, but that does not count ;)

    Carol, Aurian

  27. Hi Anachronist!! Looking forward to more reviews.

  28. Thanks Alexis! Lovely lips! ;)

  29. *waves* Hola Anachronist!

    Sounds like a book I would have to avoid, because my little ol' brain wound not be able to handle all that! I hate when authors switch POVs way to much, it confuses me. lol Good review!

  30. The setting sounds intriguing, but the POVs changing too many times would grate on me.



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