James Nicoll Reviews

Home > Reviews > Post

I Heard the Empty Call

Shadowlands  (Mirror Prince, volume 2)

By Violette Malan 

17 Mar, 2017

A Year of Waterloo Region Speculative Fiction


Support me with a Patreon monthly subscription!

To quote Malan’s on-line biography:

Violette Malan has a PhD from York University in 18th-Century English Literature, but reports that most people don’t hold it against her. She started reading fantasy and science fiction at the age of eight, and was writing stories not long after. Violette has been a book reviewer, and has written feature articles on genre writing and literature for the Kingston Whig Standard. She has taught creative writing, English as a second language, Spanish, beginner’s French, and choreography for strippers. On occasion she’s worked as an administrative assistant, and a carpenter’s helper. Her most unusual job was translating letters between lovers, one of whom spoke only English, the other only Spanish.

Violette is co-founder of the Scene of the Crime Festival on Wolfe Island, a single-day event focusing on Canadian crime writing, and celebrating the birthplace of Grant Allen, Canada’s first crime writer. Violette is currently the president of the festival board, but in the past she’s given writing workshops, and was the original organizer and co-judge of The Wolfe Island Prize for first crime fiction, which is sponsored by the festival. 

Violette Malan’s 2012 Shadowlands is the second in her Mirror Prince series.

Wars’ consequences don’t vanish when the war ends. The leaders of one side may be vanquished or dead but their followers may not be. As well, the consequences of actions taken for what seemed like good reasons at the time can reverberate for a very long time. 

Particularly when quasi-immortal faerie are involved.

Cassandra is victorious, High Prince of the Land of Faerie. Wonderful news for Faerie (at least those portions of it who favour Cassandra’s rule). Less wonderful news for the Shadowlands, which we know as Earth. The Shadowlands are the natural refuge for Cassandra’s surviving enemies, beyond Cassandra’s domain and filled with humans both unaware of Faerie and incapable of defending themselves against its denizens. Most are merely refugees. A few are something worse. 

Cassandra’s rival, the Basilisk Prince, controlled the Hunt. With the Basilisk Prince out of the picture, the Hunt has something it lacked before: freedom. Freedom from service and freedom to feed on the soul-stuff of humans, puny but of unique value to the Hunt. Mortal authorities are helpless to resist. With no idea something supernatural is at work, authorities in Toronto are blaming the outbreak of eerily affectless people on something they call the High Park flu.”

Stormwolf was once a Hound of the Hunt. Cured by magic, he serves the High Prince. He is the natural person to assign the task of dealing with the Hounds. 

The most straight-forward method Stormwolf could use is to gather a band of allies — loyal Faeries living in the Shadowlands, humans like truth-teller Valery Martin who have their own supernatural gifts — and wipe out the Hunt. Death would end their threat. Not only would this approach be difficult and risky, Stormwolf would be killing people who were at one point brothers in arms. 

In ages past, the Hunt was controlled by the Horn. The Horn is missing or destroyed. If it was destroyed, searching for it is pointless. Trying to recreate the Horn may be equally pointless; no-one now living may have the ability and resources. 

Time spent looking for the elegant answer is time the Hunt will put to good use.

This is the eleventh novel by a local author I have reviewed and the third published by DAW. On the one hand, eleven books is a very small sample. On the other hand, I know there will be more books published by DAW reviewed in this series. Is there a reason DAW editors have a prediction for authors from the land of Mennonites and ill-conceived beer festivals?

There have been a lot of urban fantasy and paranormal romance books published over the last fifteen years or so, with empowered woman protagonists and their often Byronic associates. It’s hard for any one example to stand out from the crowd. Malan adopts two strategies:

Firstly, this is a very Canadian urban fantasy. Canada is a nation settled by people who lost wars elsewhere, from the days of the United Empire Loyalists to the current influx from Syria and other trouble spots. The Faeries are just one more example, fleeing to (or trapped in) Canada after Cassandra’s rise made the Lands of Faerie unfriendly to them. Given current politics in Canada, it’s just as well the whole fuss with the Hunt was off the government’s radar. Who knows what Kellie Leich would make of it1?

Secondly, Malan rejects the simple solution of making the members of Hunt intrinsically monstrous. Someone made the Hunt the way it is. While many of them are very poorly behaved, the needs that drive that behaviour were forced on them. The ideal solution isn’t casual murder but appropriate therapy.

I have not read Mirror Prince. While Malan does a perfectly decent job of providing the background information readers need, readers may benefit from beginning at the beginning, as the author intended. Don’t be the sort of reader who starts the Dune series with Dune Messiah.

Shadowlands is available here (Amazon) and here (Chapters-Indigo).

Please direct corrections to jdnicoll at panix dot com

1: Although I have to admit huffing soul-stuff like nitrous oxide might appeal to ReformaTory leaders. And the Hunt mainly seems to prey on people from Toronto, which I can tell you will play very well outside Toronto.