L. D. Lewis’ 2018 A Ruin of Shadows is a standalone secondary-universe fantasy novella.
General Édo and her Shadow Army — an army of just seven people — have fought for decades to expand the Boorhian Empire. Each of the Shadows brings their own special skill set to the task of annihilating enemies. Ebony-masked Édo, for example, is essentially invulnerable, which is convenient for a professional soldier.
All careers ultimately end.
Decades of loyal service come to an abrupt halt when the Empire finally sets a task so disagreeable, so nasty, even Édo will refuse it. A pacifist island nation has permitted the ascension of a young Queen-Saint despite the Empire’s clear preference that this not happen. As far as the Empire is concerned, there is only one possible response: send Édo and her Shadow Army kill the Queen-Saint.
Targeting children is a bit much for Édo. She refuses the assignment. This is an even more direct affront to the will of the Empire than a backwater island selecting an unacceptable figurehead. The Empire assigns the Army of Shadows to kill their former commander. They are to seize the black mask that grants her invulnerability.
But … Édo does not care to die at this time. Moreover, the black mask is NOT the source of her true power.
Well, I can’t like everything.
● I couldn’t believe Édo’s sudden softheartedness after decades of brutal murder for the Empire. As for killing kids being a bridge too far: the Army of Shadows must have killed kids in job lots. Some of their methods included high explosives lobbed at civilian populations.
● We are told too early that the General is invulnerable due to a curse placed on her mother. The mask may be all flashy and cool, but it’s not necessary and the reader knows it. In the first fifth of the book. Goodbye to that source of narrative suspense.
● The characters are ciphers. The Shadows are ready to kill their former leader because they want her power, but that’s all we know about them.
Perhaps all of these problems might have been solved had the author chosen a larger canvas. Perhaps a novella was the wrong length for this particularstory. A novel version could have provided better pacing, more context, and more characterization. But as the novella stands, I cannot recommend it.