"The action throughout the book was wonderfully written and described, vicious and creative."

Unstoppable Shadow

by Alex Mead

SPFBO
unstoppable shadow

unstoppable shadow

by alex mead

What is it about?

“Friendless orphan from the slums of Talon, Scab is no ordinary boy. So everyone keeps telling him. He’s pretty sure ‘the Slow’ doesn’t happen to anyone else, but he daren’t ask, in fear of the next beating.

Taken from the city, Scab finds himself closer than ever to having a bed of his own, but it comes at a price. A painful one.

Veteran assassin, Silas is ready for a normal life with a family. Something the Shadows would never allow. Not helping matters, the strange, grey-eyed boy from the slums gives him glimpses of how life might be with a son.

Offering Scab the opportunity to follow the same violent path as his own, Silas finds himself bound tighter to the Shadows. With his future entwined with the boy’s, he’s beginning to wonder if death may be the only way out.

Our Review

Brutal yet compelling, Unstoppable Shadow was a great book, albeit a difficult read for me. The book is about a boy named Scab, one of many struggling to exist on the streets where no one looks out for kids. He finds an unlikely chance for a new life through assassin Silas, who sees something in Scab that both intrigues and scares him. 

Silas rescues Scab, so to speak, but one could argue that Scab moves on to a more dangerous environment than the one he leaves behind, as he learns to cold-bloodedly kill. Scab is terrifyingly good at killing, leaving some to wonder where humanity ends and something monstrous takes its place.

Author Alex Mead set the tone from the get-go, of a brutal and unforgiving world peopled with those desperate enough to do just about anything to survive. Gritty and gory (it is about a young killer, after all), Unstoppable Shadow would be an excellent read for those wanting to take a walk on the darker side of fantasy.

I found Scab to be an interesting character. He balked at killing but rarely, if ever, felt any remorse for the violence he committed. He possessed a talent he referred to as the “Slow”, which is pretty much what it sounds like: things slowed down for him at certain times, allowing him to predict what someone would do and react much faster than he should have been able to. It was a creative talent to read about, made more interesting by Scab’s lack of understanding about how it worked or where he got it.

I was intrigued by the introduction of the characters at the beginning, but the way Scab acquired his name (he isn’t Scab all the way though, getting a new moniker relatively early on) was fascinating. It was at that point that I was truly drawn in. He was such a fantastic combination of survival instincts and a lost child. His character was at times chilling, pitiable, or merciless, sometimes a combination of all three at once.

I appreciated the grittier atmosphere in Unstoppable Shadow. However, the way some of that was established caused my first-and biggest- less than favorable reaction. Now, this is just personal preference, but I try to avoid books that have mentions of rape in them whenever possible. If it is there in a passing sort of way, I can look past it and move on. However, often the word “rapist” or “pedophile” was used to show that a person was horrible. 

It worked, of course; it immediately gave me the knowledge that the person described was a monster of the worst kind. It was also incredibly difficult for me to read, especially as this was mentioned quite a lot. Again, this is personal preference, but the multiple references to rape really upset me. 

The action throughout the book was wonderfully written and described, vicious and creative. It was never redundant, and I found myself engrossed by the sheer variety of violence the author was able to convey. As I have mentioned above, this is a darker fantasy. It isn’t all doom and gloom, but it definitely manages to tread the line between “dark” and “grimdark” quite well.

The only other thing that threw me from time to time is that every now and again there would be a jump in pacing that could be confusing. For example, Silas (the assassin that found Scab in the first place) suddenly struggled with alcoholism and I couldn’t for the life of me figure out how that started so abruptly. These time jumps (for lack of a better word) rarely happened, though, and in general the pacing was very well done.

I truly enjoyed Unstoppable Shadow, although I do think that it might bother some people who, like me, might struggle with the harshness of content. For readers who appreciate grim worlds and morally gray characters, this book is for you.

Addendum to Original Review:

Unfortunately, after giving it a lot of thought, Unstoppable Shadow is a cut. While it is extremely well written and fascinating, the many mentions of rape or pedophilia lessened my satisfaction. That being said, readers who like to walk on the darker side of fantasy should add this book to their “to be read” pile. It’s a great addition to that particular subgenre.

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Jodie Crump

Jodie Crump is the creator of the Witty and Sarcastic Bookclub blog. She either lives in Florida with her husband and sons, or in a fantasy book-she’ll never tell which. 

When she’s not reading, Jodie balances her time between homeschooling her hooligans, playing Dungeons and Dragons, and lamenting her inability to pronounce “lozenge”. Find her online at Witty and Sarcastic Book Club or Twitter

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