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Shadow Prowler: The Chronicles of Siala    by Alexey Pehov order for
Shadow Prowler
by Alexey Pehov
Order:  USA  Can
Tor, 2010 (2010)
Hardcover, CD, e-Book

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* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Alexey Pehov's Shadow Prowler, translated from the Russian by Andrew Bromfield and first in The Chronicles of Siala, is a rousing videogame-paced traditional fantasy in the Tolkien style, with interesting twists and variations, such as fanged elves with yellow eyes and black lips. The series opens after 'the Nameless One began stirring in the Desolate Lands after centuries of calm.'

Its appealing antihero is young master thief Shadow Harold, trained by Brother For, kindly priest of Sagot, god of thieves. In the city of Avendoom, as demons prowl the night, Harold finds that the commission he accepted to steal a gold statuette from Duke Patin - in which he was surprised to encounter both a garrinch and a powerful demon - was assigned by canny King Stalkon the Ninth himself.

Turns out that a master thief is needed to steal the Rainbow Horn (all that can stop the Nameless One) from the Palaces of Bone in Hrad Spein (all previous missions have failed). Given the alternative of prison, Harold agrees. But first he has to acquire plans of Hrad Spein, only to be found in Avendoom's sealed off Secret Territory, created three hundred years before as the result of a magical curse. Since few who enter this arcane area return, Harold is in a 'right royal fix'.

Harried by the minions of a mysterious Master, not to mention a hungry demon, Harold enters the Secret Territory and gets out again, carrying with him a helpful mental hitchhiker (archmagician Valder) and expensive advice from the god of thieves. There's also the obligatory puzzling prophecy that seems pointed at Harold - is he the Dancer in the Shadows?

Towards the end of this first episode the questers begin their perilous journey to Hrad Spein. Accompanying Harold is Miralissa of the House of the Black Moon escorted by two other elves; ten Wild Hearts (the kingdom's best fighters), and Count Alistan Markauz (captain of the king's guard). En route they're joined by the very annoying jester/prankster, goblin Kli-Kli, who is clearly more than he seems.

Shadow Prowler is a great start to an exciting and fast moving new fantasy series, filled with monsters, magic and shamanism, and with an engaging self-deprecating hero. I'm looking forward to reading more.

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