A Review of Jo Spurrier’s Second Novel, in Which I Taunt You Again

Black Sun Light my WayBlack Sun Light My Way
Jo Spurrier
Harper Voyager
trade paper, 473 p., $29 AU

The “you” in the title doesn’t refer to Ms. Spurrier. Rather it’s to all you readers in the US. I’m taunting you because I got to read this book and you don’t. This is NOT a good thing. (More of this later.)  The novel, however, is quite good.

Some of you may be wondering how I got to read it.  Would you believe I had my agents scouring the globe…No.  Okay, would you believe I have a coworker from Australia who had his wife pick up a copy for me while she was home on a visit?  I’d like to thank Dr. and Mrs. Maurice Clark for getting the book for me.  See, it’s not what you know, but who you know.

This trade paperback cost me more than a hardcover would here in the US (and I didn’t have to pay shipping), but it was worth it.  I liked the first book in this series, Winter Be My Shield, very much.  Black Sun Light My Way is even better.

For starters, the infodumps that plagued the early chapters of Winter Be My Shield weren’t there.  Instead the story moved along at a steady pace.  There wasn’t a great deal of sword in the novel, but the sorcery made up for it.  Ms. Spurrier has clearly spent some time thinking about how sorcery in her world could be used as a weapon.  The result was several magical battles that were just as exciting as the kind fought with steel.

The characters we met in the first book continued to change and grow and in many ways were the book’s strongest feature.  The Blood Mage Kell, truly a nasty piece of work, was behind the scenes in Winter Be My Shield.  He takes center stage in Black Sun Light My Way, although he doesn’t show up for a while.  Isidro and Cam continued to try to cope with life as fugitives, and Sierra struggled to understand and control her power.

But the figure I found to be the most interesting by far was Kell’s apprentice Rasten.  He’s a monster by any civilized measure, but unlike his master, he hasn’t always been that way.  He’s been forced to become the person he is in order to survive.  Tortured and raped for years, the amazing thing is that he has any redeeming qualities at all.

This is an extremely dark series, but it’s not one in which the characters have no hope.  In fact the author makes a point of this at times in explaining the characters’ motivations.  In spite of the sacrifices and pain and lack of good choices the cast have to deal with, they never give up.  Or if they reach that point, there is someone who pulls them through.

Black Sun Light My Way surprised me several times in the directions it took.  I thought I had a good idea of the general path the storyline would take.  I was wrong.  A third book hasn’t been announced, but the story is far from over, even if there was some closure I thought would happen in the next volume.  I’m looking forward to it.

Winter Be My ShieldBoth Winter Be My Shield and Black Sun Light My Way were on  the long list for the David Gemmell Awards.  (After the previous post, I promise this is the last time I’ll talk about the Gemmell Awards for a while.)  Neither garnered enough votes to make the short list.  That’s unfortunate, because I think both books, Black Sun Light My Way especially, could hold their own against any titles on the shortlist from last year or this year.

I have to wonder what would have happened if either title had been available in the US.  Would that have been enough to make the difference?  Who can say?  Maybe it would have, maybe it wouldn’t.  But these are some of the best fantasy novels I’ve read in the last year.  They deserve a wider audience.  Hopefully someone in publishing with some decision making power will listen.

In spite of what I said earlier, you can get copies of these books in the US.  You just have to order them through independent booksellers.  (A search on ABE turned up 15 copies between the two novels.)  They won’t be cheap, but they can be had.


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