Shadow of the Exile by Mitchell Hogan

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One of Mitchell Hogan’s other books is doing really well in SPFBO, with a very positive review from Fantasy Book Review for Revenant Winds. So, when I finally got to this one on my ever-growing TBR list I was pretty excited. This one also has an audiobook, I wasn’t a huge fan of the narrator at first, but as I got to about 20% into the book I started to gel with it a bit more.

This is a story about demons and their ‘masters’. There are a multitude of worlds in this universe, and sorcerers are able to summon demons from the other realms if they are powerful enough and know the proper cants. The crux of this book is about one of those demons named Tarrik and his journey after he was summoned by a woman named Ren who is desperate and in need of help. Ren herself is rather ‘dark’, she works for an organization known as the Tainted Cabal which worships an insane demon that’s ultimate goal is the take over both the human and demon world, crowning himself King of all realms. She’s being chased and sees no other choice than to summon a demon to her aid.

Tarrik is an exile, he fell in love with a human long ago, which is a big transgression in his society. Demons aren’t mindless creatures in this universe, they are “lettered”, and they have a well-defined society with rules and regulations – those rules and regulations tend to be harsher than humans, but there is structure to it. Although Tarrik is a demon of the 37th level (just a step under Demon Lord) he has long since given up being powerful, he doesn’t see the point. With his exile in place, there’s not a lot he could do to get himself back in good graces with his King.

Tarrik is deceitful by nature, he constantly lies or warps the truth when he speaks to Ren. He’s always testing the boundaries of her power over him – routinely seeking for a weakness in their bond that he can exploit. Every task she gives him has to be very specific and thought out because if he can bend the intent of the task which could become dangerous quickly.

On the outside, it would appear as though Ren is working towards freeing an extremely powerful demon that’s unmatched in his cruelty and evil. This demon has created slaves of his own, turning the tables on the humans that use demons as slaves. He finds humans he finds fitting and then breaks them until they bend to his will. His most trusted slaves are part of The Nine, and they have all been bound to Samal – many of them have gone completely insane. The Nine are not necessarily loyal to one another, it’s okay for them to kill each other to get ahead or plot against one another without any official repercussions. It makes for a dangerous game to be involved with them, and Ren may have a different motive for joining The Nine than the rest of her peers. Samal is so evil that even the other demons want him dead, deeming him too twisted to live. Although she commits brutal acts, she seems to have a different side to her that Tarrik gets to know throughout the book. Is Ren working to free the demon, or is she working against the Cabal?

The relationship between Ren and Tarrik grew and evolved over the course of the book, but it was slow going and very begrudging on Tarrik’s part. Despite Ren giving him several chances to serve her freely and not be a slave, he always refused. He told her straight up that he would kill her if she broke the bond between them. He’s constantly thinking about how he wants to kill her, but he’s also strangely attracted to her and sometimes hopes that she will want to go to bed with him since some demon slaves are used that way. Tarrik was friends with Ren’s father, one of the only humans Tarrik ever liked – so it adds a bit to the complexity of their relationship. Due to the stress of it all, Tarrik tends to drink a lot, alcohol doesn’t get demons drunk, but it does dull the rage and demonic urges to the point where they are controllable.

There is a LOT of magic in this, and it seems to be myterious magic with some guidelines. There’s dawn-tide, dusk-tide and dark-tide magic sources and mages can become drained quickly and have to replenish themselves. Sun-tide is considered an impossibility, many sorcerers and demons alike have tried to tap into the suns power, only to become a pile of ash.

Right from the start, I knew this is going to be a little on the darker side. The opening scene is a bit violent, describing what it’s like for a demon to be ripped from their world and into the human world. It takes a lot out of them and they are left very weak after the fact, requiring a lot of food and rest post-summon. The darkness continued throughout, there are children who are murdered, plots for world destruction etc. This won’t be a book for people who don’t like reading about blood and death.

Overall there were parts of this I really liked and parts that didn’t work so well for me – but those parts are largely subjective and not something like poor writing/grammar. I wasn’t a fan of how often obvious things went right over Tarrik’s head. The audience was aware of things long before he was, and it was stubbornness and narrow-sightedness that drove Tarrik’s opinions over what was in front of him. That part drove me a little nuts, but I really enjoyed the world building and the uniqueness of seeing a demon POV as the main POV. Typically nonhumans like demons would be a side POV or just a side character, so that was pretty fun.

 

Audience:

  • Non human pov
  • grey characters
  • epic high fantasy
  • high stakes
  • demons
  • master – slave relationships

Ratings:

  • Plot: 10/15
  • Characters: 10/15
  • World Building: 13/15
  • Writing: 13/15
  • Pacing: 11/15
  • Originality: 12.75/15
  • Personal Enjoyment: 8/10

Final Score: 77.75/100

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