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Literature / Shadow Magic (2016)

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Dark is definitely not evil.
Shadow Magic is a fantasy novel, and apparently the start of a series written by Joshua Khan, set in a world with countries ruled by six great houses of magic.

After her parents’ murder, 13-year-old Lilith “Lily” Shadow rules Gehenna from Castle Gloom, an immense and windowless citadel. Once Lily’s ancestors commanded spirits, communed with the dead, and raised armies from out of the grave. But now her country is about to be conquered by the Shadows’ ancient enemies - the Solars, the lords of light. And the only way for Lily to save Gehenna is to marry the loathsome and incredibly stupid Solar heir apparent, Gabriel.

Thorn is a peasant boy, wily and smart, sold into slavery and desperate to escape. So when he’s bought by Tyburn, executioner to House Shadow, he’ll agree to just about anything - even to serving Castle Gloom for a year and day in order to earn his freedom.

When Lily is nearly poisoned by a ruthless and unknown assassin, she and Thorn - with a little help from K’leef, a boy from the Sultanate of Fire - embark on a dangerous quest to save Gehenna, a weird and wonderful land of haunted castles, mysterious forests - and an unforgettable giant bat (who may just steal the show). Together they must unravel a twisted plot of betrayals, pride and deadly ambition. And Lily must embrace her destiny as a necromancer, even as Thorn must accept his own outlaw heritage if they are to expose the killer in their midst.


List of Novels:

  • Shadow Magic (2016)
  • Dream Magic (2017)
  • Burning Magic (2018)

This novel provides examples of:

  • After the End: The Six-Sided War between the Six Princes devastated the world and shaped it into what it is in the present, with modern Humans and magic users being far lesser than those during the time of the Six Princes.
  • Ambition Is Evil: Princess Ameera in Burning Magic. It's commendable she wants to fight the ancient and sexist laws that stop women from using magic, but with a lust for the power she's been denied, she's too quick to resort to murder. Not to mention eager to enact Screw the Rules, I Make Them!
  • Arranged Marriage: Lily is to marry Gabriel for political reasons and to keep her country safe. She does NOT approve and she finds a way out of it by the end of the first book.
  • Ax-Crazy: K'leef's brother, Jambiya. He likes the smell of burning flesh, and roasting criminals and heretics at the stake is his favorite pastime.
  • Bastard Angst:
    • One of Thorn's fellow squires, Wade, wants to travel up in Gehenna's elite Black Guard to make his nobleman father who cannot acknowledge him proud.
    • The Big Bad of Dream Magic Weaver is less angsty over his illegitimacy than what King Charon did to erase him and his mother.
  • Bat Out of Hell: Hades, a giant centuries-old bat created by one of Lily's ancestors whom Thorn is able to befriend and become his new rider.
  • Benevolent Mage Ruler: Lily's father was one before he died Lily herself is one by the end of the first book, it's too bad only a few people can know that without her being sentenced to death for it. Although by the end of the second book it seems that the majority of people in Gehenna accept her as this.
  • Break the Haughty: Up to Eleven with Prince Gabriel. It takes getting dumped on throughout the whole trilogy for him to become something besides a useless Royal Brat.
  • Burn the Witch!: Women using magic is a cultural taboo ingrained in every culture in the setting, and most historical witches are burned at the stake and depicted as monsters. This taboo is revealed to be tied into the setting's Dark Secret in Burning Magic.
  • Butt-Monkey: Merrick, a minstrel Thorn "befriends" in a way on the outset of his adventures, is permanently dogged by bad luck.
  • Cain and Abel: Pan Shadow kills Iblis and his wife and son as a lead-up to seizing the throne for himself. The Six Princes join together to kill the High Queen, their sister, and erase her from history.
  • Casting a Shadow: Trademark magic of the Shadow family and the Magic for which the series is named. Using this kind of magic to stop a fire and save Thorn is what outs her as a witch in the second book.
  • Cold Iron: The cells in Castle Gloom's dungeon are barred with this to keep magic from getting in or out.
  • Dark Is Not Evil: Contrary to what most people in other countries think Gehenna is not a land of Always Chaotic Evil people, but their motif is all about darkness and all within it.
  • Dark Secret: Several secrets are revealed to exist throughout the series:
    • Dream Magic: Lily's father had an illegitimate child before he met Lily's mother, but Iblis' father ordered both mother and child killed. Said child's survival is central to the conflict in the novel.
    • Burning Magic: The story reveals a secret reaching back to the end of the world's Golden Age, a secret the Six Princes themselves buried. A seventh child, a daughter, was originally chosen by their mother to succeed her, but her brothers conspired together to kill her and erase her name from history, and set forth the law that no woman could practice magic on pain of death. This secret is what shaped the story's setting.
  • Dream Land: The Dreamtime is a patchwork world made up of all the dreams of the living. A sufficiently skilled Shadow Magic user can navigate the Dreamtime.
  • Dream Weaver: The magic at the center of the second novel and a subset of Shadow Magic, it allows one to enter the dreams of others and influence them. The jewel spiders are magic constructs which use their webs and venom to trap people in dreams and feed on them.
  • Elemental Nation: The world is split into six countries for six elements: Fire, Earth, Water, Air, Light and Shadow. The main setting is the Shadow kingdom, Gehenna, a nightmarish, macabre land that lives up to its element. The other countries include the Sultanate of Fire, the Kingdom of Lumina (Light,) Herne's Forest (Earth,) the Eagle Mountains (Air,) and the Coral Isles (Water.)
  • Elemental Powers: The six kinds of magic are Shadow Magic, Fire Magic, Water Magic, Light Magic, Air Magic, and Earth Magic. The countries all correspond to and are themed with one kind of magic; Herne's Forest is all woodlands and farms and dominated by earth Magic, and the Sultanate of Fire is located in a vast desert, etc. The ending of Burning Magic hints at a hidden, seventh Magic wielded solely by the Six Prince's mother, and the High Queen, their sister. The countries are themed all around these as well, such as
  • Evil Uncle: Lily's uncle Pan killed the rest of her family and was out to kill her in order to take over Gehenna. Although it seems that the Mask of Astaroth was making him do those things.
  • Glamour: Gabriel's good looks are all an illusion. Instead of silky blond hair, a twinkling smile and chiseled muscles, he has stringy dark hair, crooked teeth and a skinny, unassuming physique.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: In Dream Magic, Thorn defeats Weaver for good by getting him bitten by one of his own jewel spiders. To make his dream more inescapable (and pleasant,) Lily turns it into a Lotus-Eater Machine where Weaver can be unscarred and rule Gehenna as he always wanted.
  • Infinity +1 Element: Burning Magic reveals a seventh Magic far surpassing the main six elements that was once wielded by the High Queen. The magic is so far unrevealed, and Lily and Thorn depart at the end of the novel to go searching for it.
  • Improbable Aiming Skills: What Thorn makes up for in a lack of magic he makes up for in superb archery skills, which he gains fame for in Castle Gloom after putting an arrow squarely in a gargoyle's mouth.
  • Irony: Thorn was always told horror stories about Gehenna and the Shadow family, it turns out neither are all that bad. Thorn says that castle gloom will never be his home, guess where he ends up living permanently at the end of the book. When Thorn is told about Lilith Shadow he imagines her as a hideous old troll with a long warty nose, green skin, and iron teeth, she's actually a thirteen year old girl who is consistently described as beautiful and Thorn apparently becomes smitten with her.
  • Legend Fades to Myth: The history of the world and the Six Princes have been reduced to legends in the present day, which, to make it all the more confusing, each country has a different take on. In Shadow Magic, Thorn and K'leef briefly disagree whether the Princes' mother was a wood nymph or a fiery djinn.
  • The Magic Goes Away: A gradual but slow process, magic has been waning in every generation since the Six Princes, to the extent that one House was usurped and had their magic replaced with technology and science. The only area remaining rich in magic is the Shardlands, a chaos-filled wasteland still reeling from the devastating magic wrought by the Six Princes.
  • Meaningful Name: Everybody has one, but Lily stands out because her name has double significance. Her full name, Lilith, invokes the she-devil from The Bible, but her nickname invokes the flower, which fits the Theme Naming of Thorn's homeland. The latter meaningful foreshadows her desire to be a permanent part of Thorn's world.
  • Mystical White Hair: Lily acquires white hair after she overexerts her magic in Dream Magic.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Weaver's birth name remains unknown. Either he doesn't remember it or no longer wants to associate with it, considering he dubs himself "Lord Weaver Shadow" in his dream world.
  • Physical God: The tales of the Six Princes describe them as such, during a time when magic was at its strongest. Some tales say they killed actual Gods, and Prince Shadow was reputed to have chained Death itself.
  • Polluted Wasteland: The Shardlands are a magical equivalent. Once the capital of the Six Princes' ancient kingdom, it was infested with wild magic as the epicentre of the six-way war for dominance. There are endless storms, giant monsters, and the nomadic tribes who live there are prone to being born with mutations like third eyes and exoskeletons.
  • Prince Charmless: Gabriel, a rude, arrogant, cruel and self-centered young aristocrat who fancies himself a Knight in Shining Armor.
  • Shadow Walker: Lily is powerful enough with Shadow Magic to use shadows to teleport herself across vast distances.
  • Ship Tease: Plenty between Lily and Thorn.
  • Soul Power: Shadow Magic allows one to commune with, summon and manipulate spirits. The Blessings of the Dead in particular can pass on knowledge and power to those they give them to. All the souls in the Necropolis give Lily their Blessing after she releases them from service to the Shadows, restoring the power Ameera took from her using the Capture Glass on her and gave her several magnitudes more.
  • Superpower Meltdown: If a magic users exerts far more magic than their bodies can handle, it can potentially lead to fatal consequences. Lily comes close to suffering this in the second novel, and the stress still manages to turn her hair white.
  • Theme Naming: People from Gehenna have names that either invoke death, night or demons, the royal family of Lumina are named after angels, and Thorn and his family from Herne's Forest are named after plants.
  • Überwald: Gehenna.
  • Written by the Winners: With the term "Winners" being used loosely. The Six Princes are held in high esteem in modern times, practically worshiped as gods. While their powers and kingdoms were mighty, it was also their arrogance and greed that caused the war which destroyed the old kingdom and condemned magic itself to a slow death. Thorn seems to be the only person who thinks critically of the Princes.


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