Conqueror’s Shadow by Ari Marmell

The Conqueror's ShadowA review by Steve Cameron

The Conqueror’s Shadow tells the story of Corvis Rebaine, known as the Terror of the East, leads an army on a path of destruction through Imphallion. Armed with a demon-forged axe and accompanied by a flesh-eating witch, an ogre and a demon slave, none dare stand in his way. And yet below the city of Denathere, just as he’s about to claim victory, he suddenly changes plans and disappears, abandoning his allies and his army and releasing them from their duties. He also takes a young woman as hostage, ensuring safe passage for himself.

Many years later and he lives a life of peace, farming in obscurity. The hostage has become his wife, and they have two children. He no longer feels any need to rule the known world. Or to don his armour and take up arms of any sort – that is, until his family’s wellbeing is threatened. Can Rebaine convince his former allies to rejoin him in taking up arms up against the warlord that is endangering his peaceful existence?

The Conqueror’s Shadow contains all that one would expect from a fantasy novel of this type. Magical weapons, witches, ogres, goblins and large armies. And blood – lots of blood. The book has clearly been written by someone who loves the genre. Nothing incredibly surprising in originality, the writing is nevertheless solid. The story works – filled with danger and darkness, yet tempered with humour and wit. Marmell’s dialogue is convincing, his characters have depth and the world he’s created works. Although I’m not a regular fantasy reader, I do enjoy the genre from time to time. And this book is worthy of a spot on my shelf. A sequel, Warlord’s Legacy, is already available in hardback. If you love demons, ogres and battles, then this is definitely an author worth checking out.

Previously published in Dark Matter issue 4, July 2011, blog post predated to reflect the original publication date.