Esmes Indie Highlights/SPFBO: A Threat of Shadows by J. A. Andrews

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This has been picked for a semi final spot by Fantasy Book Review, I’m starting to work my way through this groupings semi finalists and man this bracket has some serious competition!

Here’s FBR’s review:


The book opens with a man who’s struggling to cure his wife from a deadly rock snake bite, his wife is dying and he’s preserved her in crystal to slow down the infection, but it won’t last forever. By accident, using experimental dark magic as a last resort, he has created a Reservoir Stone from her life essence. A Reservoir Stone is a gem with the life force of the person inside, as the persons life fades, the stone loses it’s glow and goes dark and cold. The main character is watching his wifes Reservoir Stone slowly fade to black and is desperate to find a cure.

He’s teamed up with a group of characters, an elf, a dwarf, a wizard and a blacksmith and they’re off to try and find an old Keepers liar that hopefully has both treasure and the antidote for rock snake venom.

Around a decade in the past an dark wizard named Mallon was rampaging through the country burning cities and sending out plagues, he was poised to overthrow the queen when he suddenly diverted his attention to the Elves and the Greenwood Forest. He disappeared into the forest never to be seen again, and the Greenwood burned. A new dark wizard, a Shade Seeker, is trying to wake Mallon and enter in a new age of darkness. The group has to find and stop him before it’s too late.

Final Score: 8.5/10


  • Aldaric – he’s a Keeper who has done some terrible things in search of a cure for his wife, I would call him a grey character given some of the things in his past. He’s an interesting character and his story was compelling. He’s able to use magic to do different things like soothe people, get inside their minds, cause fire etc etc. He’s also haunted by the things he’s done so it makes it easy to relate to – how far would you go to save someone you loved?
  • Adya – elf in the group is a classic beautiful elf that has you transfixed, and she’s able to enter peoples minds with too much ease – it’s not supposed to be simple to walk into someones mind but she’s able to read secrets like an open book.
  • Douglon – a dwarf, he’s pretty surly and sarcastic, his dialogue makes me laugh and his character kept things lighter for me. He stole a map from his cousin and now his cousin is out for revenge.
  • Brandson – he’s an amiable blacksmith who’s probably the most likeable of the group, he’s generally well-natured and trusting
  • Gustav – an old bumbling “wizard” who probably only has a slight grasp on magic, able to do the most basic things but makes himself out to be a great wizard

There are multiple characters with hidden intentions within the group which leads to some treachery and mystery!

Final Score: 8.5/10

World Building:

The magic in this world is mysterious, and the elf magic and human magic are related but used differently, Adya’s magic ability is something else and she’s able to stare down dragons and make friends with them.

Classic fantasy races are used but they’re done well and feel fresh, the elves backstory and how they dealt with Mallon was very interesting.

There are creatures named Borreys who live in the woods and are an all male race, they lure women in to reproduce but the women never survive. It’s kind of like the flip side of a succubus.

Reservoir Stones can be infused with animals to create monsters.

Elves can turn into trees which was pretty neat.

Final Score: 7.5/10


Goodreads tells me this ebook was 550ish pages, but I absolutely flew through this one, the pacing was great, the dialogue and character interactions were well done, and the pacing flowed through the book.

This book is pretty cleanly written, both in editing/grammar and there wasn’t much of any cursing in it either, so it’d be fine to give to kids.

This book I think is part of a series, but the ending was nice and clean so if you like stand alones this is a story in and of itself.

Pacing Final Score: 8.5/10

Writing Final Score: 8.5/10


I’ve read a ton of books where the MC is trying to save their spouse, but the reason and how it happened kept things interesting

Final Score: 7.5/10


  • People who like magic that has a cost
  • People who like traditional fantasy races, elves, dwarves etc
  • People who like mysterious magic
  • People who like single pov
  • People who like a group of characters on a quest
  • People who like series, but with wrapped up endings

Final Score: 49/60 or 8.1/10 or 4 stars on goodreads.


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