Shadows of Valor
By Elsie Park
Jolly Fish Press, 2013
Sir Calan lives a double life, as a respected knight and the legendary Shadow, terror of all manner of criminals. In both capacities, he’s a servant of King Edward and of law and order, but The Shadow’s constant contact with the worst humanity has to offer threatens to tear him apart. When investigation of a smuggling operation demands that he court Lady Genevieve to keep an eye on her other suitors, he finds himself drawn to her cousin, Elsbeth, who may be able to bring him closer to who he really is.
A few imperfectly used elements of period speech may bother neurotic English majors such as myself. The moralizing can sometimes get a little heavy, understandably, given the strong overarching theme of varied, gray, and conflicting codes of honor. The foreshadowing and exposition of the mystery are also on the overstated side and include one of those extra-long Bond-style villain’s monologues I tend to rail about.
Elsbeth and Calan make a fascinating couple. Setting aside the fact that she knows him as two people (which does make for some great drama all on its own), she’s a midwife, smart and tough by necessity, but also pious, traditional, a little naïve, and determinedly nonaggressive and forgiving. He’s a knight by day and a masked crime fighter by night, wanting to live by a perfect, chivalrous code, frightened by the amount of gray his work brings out in him. The intellectual respect they have for each other feeds both their arcs and adds great substance to their relationship. Combined with the colorful medieval backdrop, it makes for a sweet, exciting (squeaky-clean if that matters to you) romance adventure.
Agree? Disagree? Comments are always welcome! Or keep up with my fictional musings by joining me on Facebook, on Twitter, or by signing up for email updates in the panel on the right!