Title: Shadowblack

Author: Sebastien de Castell

Series: Spellslinger, #2

Publisher: Hot Key Books

Release Date: October 5th 2017


Four Stars

The second book in the page-turning Spellslinger series for all teen, YA, adult and fantasy readers.

It’s a few months since Kellen left his people behind. Now aged sixteen, Kellen is an outlaw, relying on his wits to keep him alive in the land of the Seven Sands. He misses home, he misses family and more than anything, he misses Nephenia, the girl he left behind.

Then he meets Seneira, a blindfolded girl who isn’t blind, and who carries a secret that’s all too familiar to Kellen. Kellen and Ferius resolve to help—but the stakes are far higher than they realise. A Shadowblack plague is taking hold—and Kellen can’t help but suspect his own people may even be behind it.

Perfect for fans of The Dark Tower, Firefly, The Hunger Games and Guardians of the Galaxy.

– Blurb courtesy of

This review may contain spoilers for previous book(s) in the series.

My Thoughts On…

…The Plot

“Four month in the borderlands had brought me to one irrefutable conclusion: I made a terrible outlaw. I couldn’t hunt worth a damn, got lost just about everywhere I went, and it seemed like every person I met found some perfectly sensible reason to try to rob me or kill me.”

It’s been months since Kellen left his family and his home, following the Argosi Ferius along her path, and in those months he’s been hunted down by every Jan’Tep mage that crosses his path because of the Shadowblack marks on his face. It’s while Kellen, Ferius and Reichis face down two mages out in the desert that they’re saved by another Argosi traveller and a blindfolded girl, who can’t see but who isn’t blind.

The second book in the Spellslinger series opens four months after the ending of Spellslinger, and while it’s clear from what Kellen and Ferius hint at in their conversations with each other that we’ve missed out on seeing a lot of the adventures they’ve had and danger they’ve gotten into in those four months it was easy to jump back into this story and the world. Again this book is told solely through Kellen’s POV, and a lot of story focused on his character development.

“You remember back in that town when those folks saw the shadowblack around you eye and they all reckoned you had some sort of ‘demon plague’?”
“Yeah, but that’s just superstitious nonsense. There’s no such thing as a—”
Ferius gave me a sharp look. “Is that so? You really figure four months outside your own lands is enough to make you an expert on what can and what can’t become an epidemic?”

Seneira has the same markings around her eyes as Kellen does, the shadowblack. Determined to help her return home, back to the Academy her father runs, Kellen, Ferius and Reichis join the girl and her Argosi guide on their path, but when they arrive they find a whole town being plagued by the shadowblack. With people dying, with Seneira being plagued by demon voices only she can hear, it’s a race against time for Kellen to discover the Jan’Tep mage who cursed the town.

Shadowblack is a very fast-paced read, opening right in the middle of a scene which shows Kellen and Reichis attempting to steal from someone, and it never really slows down from there. While Spellslinger had a very contained plot in Shadowblack you start seeing the threads that lead to a much bigger story which will be expanded on throughout the series. However there is still a definitive ending to this book; the story that sees Kellen arrive at the Academy trying to uncover the mystery of the shadowblack curse plaguing the people there is wrapped up before the last page.

…The Characters

“Then what is the right path?” I demanded. “What am I supposed to do?”
She laughed in response. “That’s a big question boy.” She lifted a thing arm and pointed a thin finger to the sky. “Look at all of those stars. Why you need to pick just one to follow?”

Kellen is struggling with being an outlaw, fighting isn’t the Jan’Tep way but with no magic save the breath band he sparked and his powders over the past four months he’s had to rely on what little skills he has to save his life. In Shadowblack Kellen struggles to find the path he wants to walk, and he’s offered plenty of alternatives; a place at the famed academy, an apprenticeship with a fellow spellslinger who offers a possible cure to the shadowblack marking Kellen.

“Are you staring again?” She glowered.
Usually it takes people at least a full day to decide they dislike me, but Seneira clearly hadn’t wanted to wait that long.

Seneira is a brilliant character; she’s headstrong and stubborn, and she hasn’t lost any of that iron will even after so long in the desert being hunted by the same mages who hunt Kellen. Seneira has a very defensive nature which comes out in sarcasm and sharp words, she doesn’t have many friends back at the Academy, just her family, but before the shadowblack she clearly had a very promising future and in a way she seems to be mourning that future.

The bond between Kellen and Seneira was great to read, having run away from home to protect her loved ones from the shadowblack, and later staying away to hide what she is suffering from Seneira is lonely. Kellen is one of the only people who can understand the curse of the shadowblack they’re both suffering from and in a way the loneliness they both feel draws them together, to one of the only people they’ve each met who understands what they’re going through.

“That was Reichis,” I said. “He’s my…” I hesitated. I hate sounding half-witted in front of strangers.
“Say it,” the squirrel cat snarled. “Say it, unless you figure you can cast spells with only nine fingers.”
“Fine. Reichis is my business partner.”

After four months travelling together Kellen, Ferius and Reichis have their own rhythm and routine. Reichis is never the voice of reason, prone to stealing and viciousness, but I loved the banter between him and Kellen (Reichis is probably my favourite character in this series). There’s some tension between Kellen and Ferius in this book, Kellen wondering why Ferius isn’t teaching him the ways of the Argosi, but in the end she’s just doing what she always does; stepping back and allowing Kellen the space to make his own choices and mistakes.

…The Setting

“When Seneira had said she was a student, I’d assumed she meant at some backwater school of the variety one expects to see in a region like the Seven Sands: small, poor and with barely a literate teacher. What I hadn’t expected was the Academy.”

In Spellslinger the world building was focused only on Kellen’s small corner of it; we learnt all about the Jan’Tep people but we didn’t get much insight into the world outside, both because Kellen was blinded by the lies his people had told him and because there was no need to. In Shadowblack we start seeing more of the outside world, starting with the Seven Sands; bordering all the major cities the Seven Sands is considered neutral ground, and it tends to be a place for the outcast and outlaws. The Academy is different though, in the centre of the Seven Sands it’s incredibly influential, where the children of the most important people from all the major cities travel to study, and it’s where the majority of this story is set.

Shadowblack builds on everything that happened in Spellslinger but at the same time almost felt like a completely new story; there’s with a new world to explore and new characters to meet, new enemies for Kellen to face and even more secrets to uncover. The Spellslinger series is quickly becoming a favourite of mine, and I can’t wait to read about Kellen’s next adventures.

What did you think of Shadowblack? Was it a favourite of yours or could you just not get into the story? Let me know.

2 thoughts on “Shadowblack

  1. Aaah I didn’t want to read too much of this review since I haven’t read the first book, but the cover is really beautiful & the story sounds really interesting! This is probably because I love Six of Crows too much, but the covers’ card designs are giving me super SoC vibes and I love it 😆 Are they similar at all? And would this series be a good series to read & destress when school is getting a bit too hectic for my taste?

    Great review, Beth! 😊

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, it was actually the cover of the first book that led to me discovering this series in the first place. I wouldn’t say it has Six of Crows vibes, in a way when I first read the blurb it reminded me of the Shades of Magic series but I wouldn’t say this is similar to that series either. Still I’d definitely recommend it, it really had become a favourite of mine and it would definitely be a good choice to destress with.
      Thanks so much. 🙂 ❤

      Liked by 1 person

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