Shadow King – A Tale of the Sundering

Once again, I have not accomplished any painting. Over the past weekend, my kids helped me to apply some rocks and sand to the bases of some models, hoping that we will get some warmer weather to get the spray basecoat before winter sets in.

However, I have found time to finish the next book in The Sundering trilogy. This book features Alith Anar, the Shadow King. I will just start off by saying that I love the cover for this book. Alith looks completely like an elf that you would not want to mess with. Now that I have that out of the way, time for the review.

The book starts about half way through the previous book in the series (Malekith). It is around the time where Malekith is absent from Ulthuan, and the pleasure cults have taken a hold in parts of Ulthuan, but most prominently in Nagarythe.

The Anars are a family loyal to Malekith and are awaiting his return to take the battle to the cults. Alith’s grandfather is the head of the family and tends to lean more towards caution than all out battle. Also, of note, is that Alith is interested in a young lady named Ashniel.

Alith is established as not much of a people person. He likes to get away from the palace and go hunting on his own. On one of these hunting adventures, he encounters a Raven Herald, Elthyrior. The Raven Heralds are servants of Morai Heg (the Elven goddess of fate) and tend to be a good source of information. Alith is told by him that soon his family will be lured into marching to war, but that he must keep them from doing so (and not tell them where he received this information).

Not much later the family hears about the return of Malekith and despite Alith’s remarks, decide to march out to attack the cults. They win the battle, thanks to some Ellyrians being in the area to help counter the knights of Anlec.

Eventually, Malekith is ready to attack Anlec. The Anars select a small group of warriors (deemed Shadows) to infiltrate Anlec and open the gates for Malekith’s army. The Shadows are able to infiltrate the fortress disguised as cultists. Alith does some sneaking around and overhears some of Morathi’s dark dealings.

As detailed in the previous book, the Shadows open the gates for Malekith’s army, allowing them to enter and take the fortress. Alith has a brief meeting with his prince, Malekith. The Anars return to their home, Elanardis, with Malekith returned.

Some time later, Caenthras (Ashniel’s father) decides to relocate his family to Anlec. Alith is heart-broken to see her leave, but eventually he comes to realize that she never really returned the feelings that he had for her. Her interest was clearly because of him being an heir of the Anars.

Alith encounter Elthyrior again who tells him that the Anars will soon be convicted of siding with the cultists (a ploy hatched by Morathi to discredit them). It is decided that Alith will leave to petition the elven king, Bel Shanaar, on their behalf.

Alith arrives in Tiranoc, but decides not to announce himself, since he doesn’t know who he can trust. Luckily, he meets a group of young elves in a tavern who work in the palace. One of the young ladies takes a romantic interest in him, and puts in a good word with her father to secure him a job in the kitchens.

Alith works in the palace for some time and is eventually able to catch the ear of Bel Shanaar’s herald and eventually to meet with Bel Shanaar himself. He brings his concern about his family being set up, but the king says that there is nothing he can do.

Not long after this is when Malekith poisons Bel Shanaar. This is about half way through the book, and also of note is that this is where the parallel timeline with the previous book in the series ends. So, the war with the cultists is fired up again. The palace is thrown into disarray while arguments about succession ensue. A temporary steward is appointed.

The steward ends up making a deal with Caenthras of Nagarythe to provide some military protection in the midst of chaos. The protection turns out to be a hostile occupation. With some aid Alith is able to escape with Bel Shanaar’s wife and heir. He decideds to take them to Elanardis to protect them.

This turns out to not be such a great idea. It doesn’t take the Anars long to march to war against the druchii as they refer to them now. The battle is going well until one of Morathi’s generals shows up riding a black dragon. He devastates large portions of the army and kills Alith’s father. The Anars are routed and flee into the countryside.

Upon gathering his troops, they head back to Elanardis, only to find that it has been burned and bad things done to the people found there. The good news is that Elthyrior had taken away Bel Shanaar’s heir and wife and advises that they now escape from Nagarythe.

Alith and Elthyrior head south towards Ellyrion with their charges. They find that they are being followed by some of Elthyrior’s brethren (raven heralds) that now serve the druchii.
They end up capturing some of the horses wandering the plains to aid in their escape. They find a cottage and are soon set upon by the raven heralds. They are struggling to defend the cottage when some Ellyrians show up and fight them off. Alith and compnay are taken into custody as spies and horse thieves (a crime punishable by death in Ellyrion).

Alith and company are taken to the Ellyrian capital. Their trial is not going well until the Ellyrian princess recognizes Bel Shanaar’s wife. At that point they change from being criminals to welcome guests. They remain in the Ellyrian capital for many seasons. Eventually the Ellyrian prince returns from his military campaign, bringin some of Alith’s countrymen.

A big battle against the druchii incurs. Alith and his Shadows prowl around destroying bolt throwers and sorceresses. A quick summary of the battle is that the druchii on black dragon shows up again causing lots ov problems. A sound defeat is only prevented by forces from Caledor (including three dragon riders) show up and turn the tide.

After this, Alith’s advances towards the Ellyrian princess are rebuffed by her brother. He gets a bit upset and ends up heading toward Avelorn alone. A real quick summary of that thread is that Alith joins a wolf pack, finds out that the druchii are invading Avelorn, and he finds the Moonbow.

Alith then returns to his countrymen in Ellyrion, where he decides to train them all as Shadows. And the Shadow King is born.

The rest of the book covers the various activities of the Shadow King. How he harasses and strikes fear into the heart of the druchii. It also shows some attempts by the druchii to capture him, with one failed attempt and another (aided by his ex-betrothed who is now a sorceress in Morathi’s employ) where everybody believes that he has been killed by Hellebron. They take his Moonbow back to Morathi.

Evnentually, he reappears. It turns out that one of his captains masqueraded as him to save his life. Alith ends up breaking in to Anlec. He ends up stealing back the Moonbow and returning to his people.

The book ends with the emergence of the Witch King (it has not been revealed who he truly is at this point), come to take Alith’s lands. He offers Alith the option of joining with him. At this point Alith realizes that the Witch King is Malekith, the one who they had originally hoped would end the influence of the cults.

Overall, I enjoyed the book. It kept me intersted the whole time and I thought that the parallel timeline with the previous book was an interesting touch. I was expecting it to focus more on his time as the Shadow King, but it was interesting to see how he came to the point. Alith is a fairly dark character. I know that some people love this type of character conflict, but it doesn’t have any special appeal to me.

Here come my complaints about the book. None of them are major, but once again the map is found wanting in this for pretty much the same reasons as I mentioned in the Malekith review. The second complaint is that this book does not contain a glossary, like Malekith did, which is actually pretty handy as a reference tool.  I actually found myself needing a glossary more for this book due to so many names being similar. My last one is that while the books are interesting to me, and plot twists are nice… unfortunately, knowing the High Elf history, I know how this will end.  This is no fault of the writer’s, but I would love to hear somebody’s opinion who is reading this as their first exposure to Alith Anar or The Sundering.

Thanks for reading! I might take a brief hiatus from the series to read The Hobbit, but it shouldn’t be too long before I finish the trilogy with Caledor.

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