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Knight's Shadow

Knight's Shadow - Sebastien de Castell This second book of the series was much fun, too. I read it quickly and was engaged, the story flows even more nicely since there is less swinging from past to present, the plot thickens, there is a knot of conspiracies so intricate nobody can really make head nor tail of it (thus leaving much room for improvisation) and the original trio is soon joined by more Greatcoats.
The puzzle is larger, there are several parties with a stake in the future of the Kingdom and I loved the way the pieces fell into place and the different dynamics of the subplots. Prose, tension and rhythm are as good as ever, there are interesting female characters of various ages, lots of situations bordering on the laughably foolish, there are Greatcoats vs Knights, there are cruelty and angst, hope and renewal…In a nutshell, it’s fun and grim.

Again I could see a few arbitrary plot devices, yes but really, who cares, I never felt the narrative wavering and the characters are truly captivating. The structure is more solid, the author has worked upon the weaknesses of his debut book and it shows in this second installment, he handles the story with confidence and delivers a more consistent book: there are all the points of strength of the previous one, amongst which a real gift for holding the reader's interest, keeping great balance between soul-searching, violence, dialogues and action. However, there is still little in the way of explanations: the view on the characters and the events, regarding both past and present, is limited. I understand I’m following Falcio’s POV and though experienced he’s often outwitted and is very conflicted to boot, which is part of his charm, but really, he should consider starting to search for the motives behind people’s actions. Some things happen with coherence, others just drop out of the sky (Ethalia, I’m looking at you); I’m still wondering about the rationale of some details and more than once the way the protagonists live to see another day is…fantastic to say the least, but I found it very natural to accept anything that happens, so compelling it is the whole game.

There is some fleshing out of Brasti and Kest, which I liked very much, though Brasti still provides most of the comic relief and Kest’s motives leave...space for speculation. Other secondary characters get some spotlight too, and that adds to the story. Really, the characters are the main asset of this series, most are still defined by their interaction with Falcio, but I’m looking forward to see how they’ll develop.
There are fewer flashbacks this time, much of the past has been revealed and the focus is more on the implications of the King masterplan -or lack thereof, which is a very plausible possibility- I liked those in the previous book, now that I have the background, I must say king Paelis is one of my favorite characters, I've a penchant for cripples who manipulate their friends first. The lines between good and evil are less clear cut this time, nothing original but I was in for many a surprise, there are several shades of evil in the villains and some of the motivations are so absurd I ended up laughing during drama, the story demanded it. There are also some very grim parts, some disturbing images even, but very fitting as the plot unfolds.

When I started the Greatcoats series I was expecting an entertaining swashbuckling adventure with irreverent characters. Instead, I got all of the above plus memorable dialogues and impeccable duels, an action-driven story with fantasy traditions, light world-building, hilarity and irresistible tropes, just perfect! De Castell’s storytelling really nailed it. That’s what is making me this enthusiastic. The humor is more mature, I didn't laugh out loud as much as with Traitor's Blade, but I was more engrossed. The book is also longer, hats off for keeping the pace.
It doesn't end with a cliffhanger (again the ending is very satisfying -another plus of this series) but of course there is plenty of room for more books about the Greatcoats. Also this is the kind of series you can read easily even if time passes between the installments, needless to say, I'm going to preorder [b:Tyrant's Throne|23899193|Tyrant's Throne (Greatcoats, #3)|Sebastien de Castell|https://s.gr-assets.com/assets/nophoto/book/50x75-a91bf249278a81aabab721ef782c4a74.png|44889409] as soon as it’s available.