Play of Shadows by Sebastien de Castell @decastell @JoFletcherBooks @SnyderBridge4

Posted April 8, 2024 by Robin in Book Review / 4 Comments

Review copy was received from NetGalley. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Play of Shadows by Sebastien de Castell @decastell @JoFletcherBooks @SnyderBridge4Play of Shadows by Sebastien De Castell
Series: Court of Shadows #1
on April 2, 2024
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 528
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
AmazonAudibleBarnes & NobleApple
One StarOne StarOne StarOne StarHalf a Star

Damelas Shademantaigne picked a poor night to flee a judicial duel.

He has precious little hope of escaping the wrath of the Vixen, the most feared duellist in the entire city, until he stumbles through the stage doors of the magnificent Operato Belleza and tricks his way into the company of actors. An archaic law provides a temporary respite from his troubles - until one night a ghostly voice in his head causes Damelas to fumble his lines, inadvertently blurting out a dreadful truth: the city's most legendary hero may actually be a traitor and a brutal murderer.

With only the help of his boisterous and lusty friend Bereto, a beautiful assassin whose target may well be Damelas himself, and a company of misfit actors who'd just as soon see him dead, this failed son of two Greatcoats must somehow find within himself the courage to dig up long-buried truths before a ruthless band of bravos known as the Iron Orchids come for his head.

I read the Greatcoats series a few years back.  It was a little the Three Musketeers with Gods, Saints and Magic.  Play of Shadows is the first book in a new series set in the same world year later in the Court of Shadows series, following a new cast of characters saving Trista in a brand new way.

Damelas Shademantaigne, Grandson of two Greatcoats, offered to stand in for a duel meant for his Grandfather and then escaped to a theater to avoid it.  Basically in hiding for a year, he has made some great friends in the theater and possibly found his place in the world, even if he isn’t a great actor.  That is until one night, overtaken by the spirit of a long dead actor, Demelas changes some lines in the play and it seems lights the city on fire as the man they came to be a hero in the histories might be false.

‘Fled a duel, did you?’ he asked me.
‘I prefer to think of it as engaging with the enemy honourably but from a safe distance.’

Damelas and troupe is ordered by the Duke to construct a new play from the perceived villains point of view in hopes of discovering the truth of the feud between two powerful men of the past and how the histories got it all wrong.  This means Damelas is now the lead in the play since he is possible channeling a spirit from the dead.  There is also a group of bully boys out in the city naming themselves the Iron Orchids who have made some rules against blasphemy, which this new play certainly will be seen as and everyone in the theater company will be at risk.

‘I can never quite tell if you’re a timid person who pretends at times to be brave, or a brave one who’s been trying to convince himself for far too long that he’s a coward.’

While I don’t think that you would need to have read the Greatcoats series to enjoy this book it would help to have some of the history of Trista and the saints and gods of that land.  I enjoy Sebastian de Castell’s blend of storytelling and witty lines.  In Play of Shadows, he gets to really play with the language and turns of phrase, as actors are allowed to be a bit over the top at times.  This made the overall story even more enjoyable for me as I really enjoy stuff like that in my reading.

‘My grandfather always said, ‘Love is an onion, my boy. Leave it too long and the heart of it will rot. So you’ve got to carefully peel back the layers until you find beneath something so beautiful it brings you to tears.’

The plot of the story was interesting as we are discovering how the events of the past are the seeds to the current issues in the city with the Iron Orchids and how they play into a bigger plot at hand against the people of Trista.  Demelas is also an interesting character.  Brought up to be brave by two of the greatest Greatcoats in history but living so timidly afraid to hurt anyone.  He has some great friendships in the theater troupe and I especially enjoyed the brotherly bond between him and Beretto.  Best friends, they will do anything to help the other.  There is also a small love interest for Demelas and she is deadly, just as likely to kill him as kiss him to make the story all the more fun.

The story timing was laid out well and I enjoyed how the events of the past were reveled a little at a time until we are hit with all the truths near the end.  This is a great beginning to a new series in the world of the Greatcoats and I can’t wait to see what else is in store for our funny troupe of actors turned revolutionaries next.

‘Let’s teach these blackguards the first rule of the sword,’ Beretto cried, running into the fray, ignoring the wounds he’d already suffered.
Corbier’s usually cold and calculating voice asked with interest, The first rule of the sword?
An old Greatcoats saying, I informed him as I raced after Beretto. ‘Put the pointy end in the other guy first.’


Rating Breakdown
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Overall: One StarOne StarOne StarOne StarHalf a Star
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Posted April 8, 2024 by Robin in Book Review / 4 Comments

4 responses to “Play of Shadows by Sebastien de Castell

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