Winner of the 2000 Aurealis Award for best fantasy novel, Juliet Mariller’s Son of the Shadows, the second book of the Sevenwaters trilogy is a fantastic read, combining the Celtic mysticism and historical-fantasy world she established in Daughter of the Forest with believable characters and emotionally powerful situations.
Taking place many years after the first book, Son of the Shadows follows Liadan, daughter of Sorcha and Red, who possesses powerful healing and psychic abilities. When her sister, Niamh, is married to an Ui Neill chieftain as part of the family’s strategic alliance, Liadan is captured by the Painted Man, a notorious criminal plaguing Ireland. She heals an injured man in his party, despite being at odds with the Painted Man, eventually conceiving his son during an unexpected night of passion. When she returns home, she tries to conceal his identity from her family. She holds out hope that her unlikely partner will return to her, enlisting his help to save Niamh from a loveless, violent marriage. Throughout it all, Liadan remains strong willed, ignoring the influence of others while coming to terms with her budding healing and psychic abilities.
Son of the Shadows is a touching story about the development of an unlikely love, demonstrating how far one woman will pursue what she feels is right despite her kin not approving it. Through Liadan, Marillier depicts the strength of women and the fallacy of men, while further enchanting readers in her authentic historical-fantasy world. Moreover, her portrayal of the mystic, such as how Liadan interprets her visions and the how she explores another character’s mind, is perfectly realised without seeming otherworldly. Importantly, Mariller’s prose is well nuanced, her tale is told in a very engaging style, and the world of Sevenwaters is so inviting that readers won’t want to put it down.
Son of the Shadows comes highly recommend for fantasy readers.