It seems that my fear of sequels is coming to an end. The Shadow’s Curse by Amy McCulloch was a beautifully written sequel that ended in an unexpected, yet perfect way.
This time around for the sequel, the book jumps between the perspectives of Raimanan and Wadi. The duality of their experiences and adventure paint a sharp contrast for the narrative experience. Raim goes through the story questioning his own worth. A boy like him against an army and a best friend turned mad king, he constantly questions himself with every turn. It felt rewarding and satisfying to see him slowly grow more confidant as the story progressed. It also felt very natural. Nothing about how he changed as a character felt forced or rushed. Like a real person, he questions and doubts himself and slowly confronts his own fears to grow stronger. I love this kind of character as his choices feel organic to his own experiences.
But whereas Raim’s progression appears to be more focused on his character development, Wadi’s felt more about Khareh as a khan than her as a character. This was a fairly clever mechanism to show the struggle of Khareh as a character and an antagonist. In a twisted way, the reader is given a perspective of the young khan that starts to make sense of why he did what he did. But while I really did enjoy this perspective and found that it strengthened the plot as a whole, I felt that Wadi didn’t really have much agency in her role as a main character. This in no way detracts from the strength of this story telling method or her as a character, I only think she could have been utilized a bit more.
More of the wonderfully created world is explored as are the secret machinations of different factions as well as political motivations. What was probably the strongest element to this was the difference in each of the cities that either Raim or Wadi visited. They never felt like carbon copies of the others yet still felt similar enough to tie them together as being part of the same region. Just like in the first novel, the way the cultures interact and perceive each other is characterful and fits the description of the people perfectly.
Both Raim and Wadi are taken on a roller coaster of an adventure that never stops being entertaining nor heart pounding. The entire time I was reading I couldn’t put the book down as I just wanted to know what happened next. The action feels well plotted to allow for the weight of what happened to be carried with it. Nothing felt like it was unnecessary or like filler. Switching between both Raim and Wadi allowed for a duality of perspective that asked a lot of questions that thankfully came with answers that felt well developed. With how the first book ended, the story felt like it was in a strange bind that I honestly didn’t know how it could work. But the way it ended was both satisfying and logical. Up until the very end, the very tipping point of the climax, I had no idea what was going to happen and I was surprised and glad that it all came together so cohesively.
Just as with the first book, the writing is very easy to follow and get lost in. I found myself reading for hours where I only intended to read for maybe one. Each chapter flows smoothly into the next while also building tension and excitement to see what is about to happen. With the story jumping between Raim and Wadi’s perspective, there was always a feeling of “but what’s going to happen to him/her?!” which kept me reading more and more. The chapter lengths feel appropriate as it keeps the story progression at a consistent pace that never feels tiring and helped to keep the tension up.
What Writer’s can learn from this book
Honestly I was surprised how perfectly well this story came together from beginning to end. There were so many parts I was worried about because I couldn’t see how it would resolve in the end. But after finishing the story and taking some time to reflect on Raimanan’s journey, the way this story ended felt perfect. I don’t want to spoil anything, but I feel that any author struggling with complicated plot lines needs to read this series. It’s a character driven story that came to a climax I didn’t see coming and I doubt I ever could have and I loved it for that.