Shadowblade by Anna Kashina
Published: May 21, 2019 by Angry Robot
A young sword prodigy must impersonate a lost princess and throw her life into a deadly political game, in this kinetic epic fantasy novel by the author of the award-winning Majat Code series
Naia dreams of becoming a Jaihar Blademaster, but after assaulting a teacher, her future seems ruined. The timely intervention of a powerful stranger suddenly elevates her into elite Upper Grounds training. She has no idea that the stranger is Dal Gassan, head of the Daljeer Circle. Seventeen years ago he witnessed the massacre of Challimar’s court and rescued its sole survivor, a baby girl. Gassan plans to thrust a blade into the machinations of imperial succession: Naia. Disguised as the legendary Princess Xarimet of Challimar, Naia must challenge the imperial family, and win. Naia is no princess, but with her desert-kissed eyes and sword skills she might be close enough…
Shadowblade was an interesting fantasy adventure that follows the plucky and determined Naia as she gains her Jaihair status and then embarks on her first mission. I enjoyed the world that Anna Kashina has created; it’s filled with intrigue, manipulations, and several powerful entities all vying for control. The first half of the book was a bit slow and it took a while for me to really get into the meat of the story. I wasn’t expecting so much time to be spent on Naia’s training but it does allow the reader to get to know her character.
At first Naia comes across as very young for her age. She starts the book at 17 but her voice and her actions “feel” younger. There are a few time jumps that in my opinion didn’t work too smoothly but as the book continues, we see Naia start to come into herself more. While Naia certainly holds her own as a warrior and deserved every bit of her rank, I was bothered by the fact that Naia doesn’t seem like the main character in her own story. Throughout the book Naia is led and manipulated into most of her actions and she spends much of the story simply reacting to things already happening or following the orders of others. There are very few instances where Naia is actually making her own decisions to progress the story. While a portion of Naia’s lack of choice is built into the actual plot, she’s far too passive for a main character.
The majority of plot progression came from side characters like Karrim, Mehtab, and Gassan. I enjoyed these characters and how they shaped the story, each with their own wants and desires for the empire. There is a bit of a love story between Naia and Karrim but it does happen very quickly. Naia and Karrim are pretty much smitten with each other after a single day for no apparent reason other than how much they enjoy sparring with each other. I would have liked to see better development in this part of the story because it felt a bit tacked on to give Karrim a reason to support Naia.
Overall, Shadowblade was a good read with an interesting world, but it needed a stronger portrayal of it’s main character.
3 stars – it was good
ARC provided by author for honest review