Knight's Shadow ( Greatcoats# 2) by Sebastien De Castell

Traitor's Blade was one of the best debuts of 2014 and also one of my best reads that year. I wasn't sure how Sebastien De Castell was going to top that. And yet incredibly, he does just that - and so wonderfully well! With the second book in the Greatcoats series, Knight's Shadow that follows the exploits of the lovable roguish trio of Falcio, Kest and Brasti - as they go about trying to fulfill their king's last wishes in a country that is rapidly falling in to the chaos of civil war.

Knight's Shadow picks up right after the events in the Traitor's Blade - where Falcio is struggling with the poison of neatha in his blood, Kest after having defeated Caveil and thus taken on the mantle of the Saint of the Swords is also buckling under the unprecedented "fever" that Saints's experience and Brasti's jokes are getting even more unbearable and his shaky faith in their king's ideals are crumbling even faster. Trin is marching across the North trying to muster the support for claim to the throne while on the other end,Tailor as bloodthirsty and cold-blooded in her aim to protect Aline, the King's daughter, wants Falcio and gang to enlist the help of Dukes in the south toward's Aline's cause.

The trio head over to meet Duke Isault to get his backing for the same but things turn topsy turvy as Duke gets murdered and a Greatcoat sent by King Paelis to infiltrate the Duke's castle gets framed - and unfortunately ends up dead as well. This puts a huge monkey-wrench in Falcio's plans of getting the knights' support added for Tailor. The conspiracies then begins to thicken as newer players enter the fray - knights wearing black tabards without any allegiance to a particular duke hell bent on just cutting up the commoners and setting the whole country on fire. Also older enemies, Dashini - a legendary sect of assassins re-enter the game, hell bent on avenging their dead brothers against Falcio. To make matters worse, the poison in his blood is making him weaker than ever - and Falcio knows he is counting his days ahead.

The snappy narrative and breakneck pacing is carried over from the first book - a lot of witty banter and fantastic action sequences:  one-on-one sword fights, sweeping armies clashing against each other, all of this is thrown right at you from the start of the book itself. There were a lot of moments that I was just smiling to myself reading the dialogues - be it Kest and Falcio trying put Brasti in place or exchanges between Falcio and the dukes. But the wit truly doesn't cover up for the mood in this book: this one's a lot more somber and darker than the first one. As Falcio and friends start uncovering the trail of a wider conspiracy to throw the whole country into chaos and burning. The grim and bleak sequences only add to the character of the book [There are some truly horrific and dark situations that Castell puts his beloved crew through - the battle at Carefal, the incidents at the Dashini camp or the Greatcoat's Lament !] and tempers our Greatcoats, testing their valor, loyalties and resolves to the limits. Time and again, Falcio has to go through severe tests of his faith in the King's vision for the country and this struggle - coupled with all the other complications that the greatcoats have to face through the book, really brought the shine out in that friendship of the three leading characters. I say three, but perhaps Brasti - the light hearted comedian with his incorrigible jokes perhaps gets left behind a bit. While the book yet again celebrates the brotherly bonding between Falcio, Kest and Brasti, Sebastien focuses a bit more on the long-lasting friendship and backstories to Kest and Falcio - the trials of fire they undergo make them come out all the more stronger for it. Sebastien also introduces us to Dariana - a cynical and vicious young lady who's got a crucial role to play in the events unfolding and also Valiana, the girl who was being groomed for the queen till the last moment by Duchess Patriana in book-one, who has turned over a golden leaf and becomes one of the fiercest and proud believer in Falcio's principles and goals.

We see a lot more travel for Falcio and his friends throughout the nation of Tristia - thereby building out more of the world and mythologies surrounding the greatcoats. In spite of all this, the book isn't a meandering ride but a driven, furious onslaught that takes no prisoners. The book truly blew me away by it's intensity and focus - the thrills, the humor and the fights are top-class and there is no second book slump at all here. So if you liked the 'swashbuckling' debut of Sebastien, then this is the book where he truly comes into his own class. The Greatcoats series is going in for a big-bang and you don't want to miss this exhilarating ride. Trust me, when Falcio says, The Greatcoats are coming, I really had goosebumps - and I cannot wait for the new one, releasing next month! 


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