Fantasy epics have often come in very bulky, very hard to read packages. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien and The Once and Future King by T.H. White are considered classic, if particularly lengthy, examples of the fantasy epic genre. Garon Whited’s Nightlord: Shadows series has the same characteristics of those fantasy staples, all delivered in a modern telling.
Nightlord: Shadows is Whited’s second book following Eric, a half-human, half-vampire wizard living under the name Halar in a universe completely different from his own. In this universe, everyone can do a little bit of magic, vampires, or, Nightlords, occupy the status of demi-gods, and political intrigue is complicated by gods and goddesses. The universe Whited creates is similar enough to other fantasy worlds to build upon a shared lexicon of creatures and features, such as elves and basic farming tools, but stands on its own in different ways, such as the way characters tell time and the different rituals they practice.
In Shadows, Whited creates the perfect balance of a sequel. He draws upon events in his previous book but never left me in the dark. Whited writes in such a comprehensive way that there is enough information left out from Shadows that I want to read the first book, but I didn’t feel that I had to in order to understand what was happening. He’s a master of summarizing events and theories without making it feel like a summary – instead, it feels like I’m speaking with an authority on the subject, who explains his ideas in such a way that I’m left intrigued.
Whited’s writing style is accessible and easy to fall into. It was difficult to tear myself away from Nightlord: Shadows, and I found myself mulling over the characters and their various problems and situations even as I went about my daily business. His word choices are intelligent but never haughty, and the flow of his writing makes it easy to devour chapter after chapter of the fantastic world he weaves. His characters are realistic and it’s easy to become attached to them, and Eric’s point of view is snarky and enlightening all at once.
Eric is a unique fantasy character in that he approaches the fantastic elements of this new universe from the perspective of a twenty-first century protagonist. He understands magic by the application of scientific principles and experimentation and he uses the fundamentals of new technology to improve the lives of the medieval citizens of his fledgling kingdom. His particular approach to magic is interesting because it feels similar to the way I sometimes think and feel about magic in fantasy books, where I try to apply real-world concepts to the magic I read about. Even as Eric gets technical with his detailed explanations, I found it fascinating to see how his scientific knowledge interacted with the magic in this new world.
Eric acts as a bridge between the reader’s world and Whited’s fantasy universe, but he is also a fully fleshed out character. He makes mistakes because of arrogance and pride, he hurts when those he cares for are hurt or injured, and he strives to become a good king and a good role model for his citizens to follow. He worries about living up to the reputation he has built over several decades while in a restorative sleep and he expresses frustration when his goals are blocked. Eric is by no means perfect, and that is what makes him a perfectly developed character.
If you’re looking for a modern take on the style of fantasy epics, look no further than Nightlord: Shadows. With content that is palatable for all ages and tastes, it’s sure to become a favorite title for fans of fantasy fiction.