“That’s the sound of history being made, lads. Something I hoped never to hear.”
A king’s orders don’t have to be reasonable, and mage Meralda Ovis is fuming at her latest ridiculous assignment of moving an ancient tower’s shadow for an upcoming speech. But she may have even more to worry about as sinister magic seems to hang over a historic meeting of delegates from throughout the Five Realms and beyond.
I’d previously read Frank Tuttle’s short story Saving the Sammi, and enjoyed the small glimpse into the world of Mage Ovis and her amusing assistant Mug, an “enchanted dandyleaf plant who sees the world through 29 bright eyes” (Best. Sidekick. Ever.). I found this longer adventure even more fascinating.
The world surrounding Meralda exists somewhere between steampunk and fantasy, and the combination works wonderfully. Tuttle provides an internally consistent “scientific” framework of magic at the center of his story that provides and interesting and logical foundation. From there he builds an engaging narrative off of good characterizations among a complimentary diverse cast and a reasonably paced, intriguing plot that’s well balanced among predictability and surprises. Tuttle has a great gift for making his creations understandable and relatable, as well as for properly conveying tension and other important emotional context.
If I have any criticism to offer it’s that All the Paths of Shadow would have benefitted from less contemporary shorthand for describing “unknown” cultures. Hinting at the inspiring culture’s influence via descriptions and connotations rather than flat out using real world terms would have done a lot to eliminate the awkward loss of immersion that often accompanied them.
All and all though this was a creative, enjoyable novel and I’d love to see more from Meralda and her unique reality.