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The Conqueror's Shadow [Paperback]

Ari Marmell
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
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Book Description

9 Dec 2010

They called him the Terror of the East. His past shrouded in mystery, his identity hidden behind a suit of enchanted black armour and a skull-like helm, Corvis Rebaine carved a bloody path through Imphallion, aided by Davro, a savage ogre, and Seilloah, a witch with a taste for human flesh. No shield or weapon could stop his demon-forged axe. And no magic could match the spells of his demon slave, Khanda.

Yet just when ultimate victory was in his grasp, Rebaine faltered. His plans of conquest, born from a desire to see Imphallion governed with firmness and honesty, shattered. Amid the chaos of a collapsing army, Rebaine vanished, taking only a single hostage - the young noblewoman Tyannon - to guarantee his escape.

Seventeen years later, Rebaine and Tyannon are married, living in obscurity and raising their children, a daughter and a son. Rebaine has put his past behind him, given up his dreams of conquest. Not even news of Audriss - an upstart warlord following Rebaine's old path of conquest - can stir the retired warrior to action.

Until his daughter is assaulted by Audriss' goons.

Now, to rescue the country he once tried to conquer, Rebain once more dons the armour of the Terror of the East and seeks out his former allies. But Davro has become a peaceful farmer. Seilloah has no wish to leave her haunted forest home. And Khanda . . . well, to describe his feelings for his former master as undying hatred would be an understatement.

But even if Rebaine can convince his onetime comrades to join him, he faces a greater challenge: does he dare to reawaken the part of him that glories in cruelty, blood and destruction? With the safety of his family at stake, can he dare not to?

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Product details

  • Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Gollancz (9 Dec 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0575098619
  • ISBN-13: 978-0575098619
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 250,934 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Book Description

Fantasy just got a new anti-hero.

About the Author

Ari Marmell has an extensive history of freelance writing, which paid the bills while he worked on improving and publishing his fiction. THE CONQUEROR'S SHADOW is his first wholly original novel.

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Customer Reviews

4.0 out of 5 stars
4.0 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Despite his success in the US, Ari Marmell doesn't appear to be too-well-known in the UK; it probably doesn't help that I've yet to actually see a copy of
"The Conqueror's Shadow" in any bookstore, despite it's recent publication over here. The author's first foray into an entirely original setting, the "Conqueror's Shadow" exceeded my expectations, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.

The novel is lighter in tone than much of the top fantasy output these days, despite some of the sinister and grim content. One gets the sense that Marmell wants his novel to entertain just as much as make the reader think on its themes - maybe more, and for this reason we are put in mind of early, classic fantasies. That being said, despite its classic feel, The Conqueror's Shadow still retains a contemporary `grittiness', and can sit comfortably alongside the novels of Lynch and Abercrombie, while also appealing to fans of Gemmell and Erikson. If I had to choose one of Marmell's peers to compare him to, I would say that Scott Lynch is probably the closest in style and quality, if not content. At the same time, his world had a similar feel to that in the Fable computer game series.

The humour Marmell sprinkles throughout the novel is good - it's made up of understated quips, sarcastic or amusing comments, observations and asides, rather than laugh-out-loud moments. It doesn't always work (sometimes the comments fall a little flat, or come a little too close together), but rarely did I go a chapter without smiling or chuckling at a comment or snippet of dialogue. Marmell's writing can lean towards the flamboyant or florid on occasion, but it's easily forgiven as the pace of the story and quality of the plot and writing pulls you quickly onwards.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Gollancz YA 17 Feb 2011
By Gareth Wilson - Falcata Times Blog TOP 500 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Kindle Edition
I missed this title on its original publication so when I finally found the time I decided to invest the time and the finances intot his title. What unfurls within is a young adult fantasy book that can easily bridge the gap between the Young Adult and the Adult titles on the shelves. Add to this an intriguing sense of humour, some great themes as well as characters that will more than pique the readers interest and it's a title that is a great start to a brand new series. Whilst I've heard good things about the author from friends on the other side of the pond, I really wasn't sure if it was going to be the type of title for me. Luckily I was surprised at just how enjoyable it was alongside a decent pace, some great action sequences and it's a title that will more than fulfil the reader's wants. Great stuff.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A Conqueror one have to like 11 Jan 2011
I liked it, a lot. There was something light over the whole book, even in the darkness. Corvis is not someone you should like, but how could I not like him. At the beginning of the book he does his name credit, he is not a nice person, quite the opposite. The he disappears and marries, haves children, only to see the world break again. And again he shows that he truly is The Terror of The East. But sometimes you just have to love the evil guy, because at least this time he wants to protect his wife and children. Marmell sure does a great job creating this character you just fall for.

There is humour and a streak of light through out the book. Much come from Khanda, his "pet" demon. That demon has a tongue on him and says what he wants. To my horror I like him too, even when he is feasting on souls. There is also his once trusted friends, great sidekicks there.

The book does what fantasy should do. It sweeps you into a new world and make you feel right at home there. A kingdom that can not stand together, the guilds wants one thing, the nobles another thing, and a new enemy that wants to have it all. There are battles, death, destruction, and one good plot that had me guessing.

But the thing I did like the best was how much I liked these characters, and how I wanted to read more about them. The book ends where it ends. A nice conclusion and that is it. But it leaves an opening and there will be another book, and I want that book.

Recommendation and final thoughts:
Of course I am recommending this book, I could not put it down, and I did not want to put it down either. It was fun, it was light, it was dark, it was a great ride. I have to give it a 4 and I hope he keeps up the good work.

So go read it, and I promise you will like Corvis too.
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1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Conquerors Shadow 28 Mar 2010
By Dil
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Graet concept and interesting style. Good strong start. I felt is fell off a bit in execution towards the end but I still enjoyed it.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.2 out of 5 stars  25 reviews
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Conqueror's Shadow 8 Mar 2010
By S. Baskin - Published on
When I first picked up The Conqueror's Shadow, I thought it sounded interesting but not that original. Now after reading it I have to say, boy was I wrong. I loved The Conqueror's Shadow! From the fast paced action to the witty and endearing characters The Conqueror's Shadow has it all.

My initial thought that the book would be unoriginal and overly filled with war details was completely wrong. The book is instead filled with strong supporting characters that are both endearing and comical, a strong and fast paced plot, and an ending filled with twists to delight even the most jaded reader.

But what impressed me most about The Conqueror's Shadow, were the flashback sequences interspersed throughout the book and the level of writing Marmell uses to transform Corvis, the Terror of the East into a peaceful and happy husband and father.

I've read a number of fantasy books that have tried to use this same flashback technique, but often it comes across as dull and unnecessary. This is not the case for The Conqueror's Shadow, instead these flashbacks complete the character development necessary to make an evil warlord likable to the reader, as well as show the sequence of events that brought us to the present. These flashbacks round out the protagonist and ultimately giving this book a step up on the majority of books in this genre.

As for Marmell's writing, never before have I read a book that the author is able to so aptly paint the protagonist in such a morally grey area. Corvis is truly a monster of a man, he killed thousands in his war, unleashed the gnomes and other terrifying creatures on the world, and had his demon, Khanda, eat the souls of hundreds of innocent men, women, and children. Yet Marmell has done a remarkable job infusing Corvis with just the right amount of admirable qualities to make him instead into a humble yet flawed man. A man who just wanted to make the world into a better place. Marmell uses these same skills and the flashback sequences mentioned above to illustrate the transformation that causes this monster of a man to become the husband and father we meet at the beginning.

Yet at the end of the day it all comes down to one question. Did I enjoy the book? And I can clearly and easily say, yes, I enjoyed this book.

Marmell's superior righting ability, the fast paced action, and the lovable supporting character make The Conqueror's Shadow a great read and easily something I would recommend to anyone who likes fantasy.

9 out of 10

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Original and Compelling 2 Feb 2011
By Kenneth New - Published on
Format:Mass Market Paperback
It is seldom that a novel in the fantasy genre strikes me as truly original. The Conqueror's Shadow (by Ari Marmell) grabbed my interest upfront and kept it throughout. I was impressed enough with the book that I felt I needed to read it twice before moving on to another novel if I were to do it justice in recommending it to my friends.

I won't ruin the story by revealing too much of the plot, but I will mention some elements that made it hard for me to put down. The main character is man who was driven to conquer the Kingdom of Imphallion. At least a part of his motivation was a desire to see a strong and just rule for the nation. In his quest he enlists the aid of dark powers and engages in atrocities that chill the bone. In the end, his quest hinged on being able to acquire a magical tome that could overwhelm his enemies. When he failed in this endeavor, he walked away.

What was truly original in this tale was that Corvis Rebaine's attempt to conquer a kingdom took place in the past and is revealed slowly through flashback. We get a chance to sympathize with the character before finding out the full extent of his dark deeds. In the present, another would-be conqueror is following in Rebaine's footsteps, using many of the same allies and methods. Rebaine, who has been living in hiding for seventeen years, comes out of retirement when his family is threatened. Only this time he must find a way to stop the conqueror and save the kingdom.

Much like the character of William Munny in the film Unforgiven, Corvis Rebaine is compelled to take up his old life in order to save his new life. Furthermore, he is seriously afraid that the allure of his old ways will consume him and make truly into the man he used to be - a prospect that would end his new life and destroy his family as surely as his inaction.

As the story progresses, Rebaine must struggle with his past, as well as with his new enemy. He has to save a kingdom that has every reason to wish him dead, and to rise above the temptations that threaten to pull him down into the morass of his former ambition and greed. It's an impossible task for him to fulfill without being tainted by his former self. While the external struggle against his enemy is engrossing in and of itself, it is the internal struggle against himself that drew me in.

In some ways Audriss, the current would-be conqueror of Imphallion, is a dark mirror of Rebaine himself. He was created by Rebaine's campaign of terror and is motivated by some of the same reasons. The real question is: "How much do the high and laudable goals espoused by Rebaine and Audriss have to do with their actions, and to what extent are they covers for their own ambition?"

I cannot recommend this book enough to lovers of the fantasy genre, and I cannot wait to read the sequels.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book, definitely worth the time. 7 Jan 2011
By Romteni - Published on
Format:Mass Market Paperback
In short I think its a great book, very interesting and unique. Other reviews go in-depth to tell you whats so great about it, I'm just going to say its worth the time and I really enjoyed it.

Yes I'd recommend it, great plot, great story, amazing ending which definitely leaves you on your toes waiting daily for the sequel (as I have :D)
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The hero that wasn't 28 Aug 2010
By Vanessa - Published on
Ari Marmell has been writing freelance for years, including short stories, co-authored shared-world fiction, and RPG manuals for Wizards of the Coast. THE CONQUEROR'S SHADOW is his first solo novel, and he attempts to shake things up, with a twist on the standard sword and sorcery.

Corvis Rebaine is happily married to a loving and clever wife, Tyannon. He's got two rascally kids. He's living a simple life among small-town villagers. Everything's all peachy keen.

But his sordid past catches up to him when bandits attempt to assault his daughter. However, this is no random attack, its very deliberateness to bring Corvis out of hiding, because he has something everyone would kill to get.

You see, almost twenty years ago Corvis built himself an army of witches, humans, ogres, goblins, et al, with the purpose of conquering Imphallion. But in order to actually succeed he needed a book of spells, hidden deep within the catacombs of one of Imphallion's largest cities. He assaults the city, barely able to hold it while his enemies gather to dig him out, his entire plan hinging on finding that book and using it to conquer Imphallion for good. He finds the book...but he can't use it. All his plans turn to ruin, so he takes a hostage, young noblewoman Tyannon (yep, the one he eventually marries), and escapes, only to abandon his army and any dreams of conquest.

Now, nearly twenty years later, a copycat warlord is tracing Corvis' steps, using his old plans to start a new campaign of destruction, and find the spell book for his own use. So Corvis does the only thing a former evil warlord can do when someone steals his plans and threatens his family: remake his own army and fight back.

The best thing CONQUEROR has going for it is its serious-goofy-dark sense of humor. In fact, this story wouldn't have worked without it. Why? Because no reader would ever believe that Corvis, the Terror of the East, who strung up bodies in his conquered cities, and laid waste to the countryside, would eventually become a sentimental family man. It defies all rational characterization. The entire plot is crazily contrived. Yet the humor allows readers to suspend belief--for the story anyway, characterization is something else, altogether.

CONQUEROR boasts a big cast, but it revolves around the main three: Corvis Rebaine, former warlord, now husband/father trying to protect his own; Davro, ogre, former lieutenant in Corvis' army; and Seilloah, witch. Marmell paints these stock characters with a few goofy twists and even goofier banter. In fact the dialogue between the main characters is often worthy of an eye-roll. Perhaps it's the humorous take on these supposed dark characters that makes them less believable. Perhaps it's the RPG quality to the set-up. Whatever the case, the result was that I wanted to like Corvis, but never really understood his motivations and behavior. It's a nice idea that he repents of his ways and ends up with a happy family life, but it was hard for me to take seriously considering the circumstances. It doesn't help either that I don't believe Tynannon's behavior. I mean, really, the guy marries the girl he kidnaps and Tynannon never contacts the brother she saved from death? Whose life hung in the balance in the first place because of Corvis? Perhaps they deserve each other. Davro's constant griping was like a violin with one string, his characterization about as deep. Seilloah...I still don't know what I was supposed to think of her.

Marmell tries to help us catch up on the history with brief chapter openers that show us scenes from the past--they aren't chronological, but still relevant to chapter events. Between those and the exciting prologue, it's almost too much information too early in the novel. The PoV switches between several characters, frequently within a scene or to a random character who's never used a second time. Marmell also jumps from scene to scene to keep the pacing quick, but it made the narrative hard to follow when it left out gaps of information and plot. And the ending is a contrived mish-mash of events. All of these problems hurts the forward momentum of the story, which is often rocky. And since I seem incapable of writing a review without a petty complaint, here's mine for this novel: Marmell likes his adjectives/adverbs way too much, which makes for unnecessary wordiness and affects the flow of the prose.

The setting is your standard fantasy landscape, but it doesn't get in the way of the storytelling. Marmell's prose carries the plot along well enough, describes the fights without being too flashy, and adds a handful of new ideas to keep readers interested. The magic isn't anything special, it's used inconsistently, and when it is used it's convenient for the plot. This is too bad because the demon-inhabited items could have been more integrated into the story and really added some spice. Also hinted at are the different levels of sorcery ability, which isn't explained in much detail, but at the same time trumped by the special spell book that would allow the use of even 'higher circle' spells independent of ability.

THE CONQUEROR'S SHADOW is fluffy fantasy reading, despite the author's attempts to explore the theme of justifying evil actions for the sake of good intentions. The best audience is probably your teenage son, who won't get stuck on the unbelievability of it, will laugh with the snappy dialogue, and will like the idea of the villain being the 'hero'--plus it's clean enough for parents who like to keep an eye on content.
5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars amusing timely fantasy 27 Feb 2010
By Harriet Klausner - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
In Imphallion, Corvis Rebaine led an army that killed anyone in his path. He used his demon ax and Khandra the demon slave and allied with Davro the ogre and Seilloah the witch. They won victory after victory. However, on the verge of total conquest, the Terror of the East as he was called lost and vanished along with a noblewoman Tyannon.

Years later, Audriss the warlord has deployed Corvis' plan for world domination through mass damnation. Corvis has heard of his replacement, but ignores the conquests as he and his wife Tyannon raise their two children Lilander and Mellorin in love and peace. That changes when Audriss' thugs abduct Mellorin, which angers Corviss into action starting with killing those who grabbed his daughter. He gathers his former allies to ironically save Imphallion from the latest warlord.

This is an amusing timely fantasy in which an amoral (except with his family and buddies- demons don't count as pals) antihero and his even less ethical friends save the same realm they almost conquered seventeen years ago from the latest conqueror. The story line is fast-paced, action-packed and though jocular raises questions as to what are true values. Though how middle-aged Corvis retained his warrior skill that he uses immediately remains questionable, he and his partners make the tale as they are sly, slick and will do any stunt to achieve their objectives; his being to return to his family. Fans will appreciate the efforts of Corvis to complete the job and go home.

Harriet Klausner
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