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38 of 41 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Mixed bag - better book, derailed series
Okay, first the good. The book itself is something of a return to form. Benefitting immensely in pace by shedding about 40% of the flab from the second and third books whilst actually seeing more plot movement. This continues to be a character-driven series and there is a welcome return for Angus Lok as well as more action for Raif, Effie and Raina. The basis of the...
Published on 6 Jun 2010 by Ben W

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Oh no, not another ever-lengthening fantasy epic.
Quite a bit smaller than the three books which preceded it, Watcher for the Dead doesn't really progress the story as much as it should have. The quite poorly-written recap at the start of the book is its worst feature, with the evolution and development of the main characters and story too slow to leave readers waiting expectantly for number five. Hopefully Jones will...
Published on 21 Oct 2010 by Daghda


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38 of 41 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Mixed bag - better book, derailed series, 6 Jun 2010
Okay, first the good. The book itself is something of a return to form. Benefitting immensely in pace by shedding about 40% of the flab from the second and third books whilst actually seeing more plot movement. This continues to be a character-driven series and there is a welcome return for Angus Lok as well as more action for Raif, Effie and Raina. The basis of the storyline - Raif's ability to heart-kill - is as good as most fantasy novels and is nicely expanded here. All good, well written, engaging characters, and a sense of progress that has been missed. There is still a woeful lack of interaction between the main characters which means that the various plots run almost independently, which is a crying shame, and it still isn't clear what purpose some of them serve.

The bad mostly, to me anyway, stinks of weak editorial work and poor planning across the series. I'll put the interminable ages between books to one side (we wouldn't care if the series was rubbish after all!). But the first book was sold as the first of a trilogy. This is book four and I presume there's at least one more because there's not a great deal of sense of events drawing to a conclusion yet. So a trilogy it is not! The first three books were massive doorstops and this one is nearer half the size (at an obscenely over-priced 20 hardcover, mind you). Thankfully it cuts out most of the dull travelling that made the third book such a mediocre read, but I can't help feeling that the great concepts from book one have started to get lost in a series which has run out of control. There has been so much irrelevant flab that I can't help but think that a good editor would have ensured it was a trilogy - and then it would have ranked among the best, which it now doesn't.

I'll read the next book, but I'll hope it's the last too.
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28 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gripping, 14 April 2010
Until I just had a look, I always thought JVJ pushed this series out fairly rapidly but it turns out its 4 books in 11 years, which compares unfavourably to George RR Martin's 4 books in 9 years (and I never thought I'd use the word unfavourably in comparing release schedules against Martin!). Still, its mostly due to a 5 year hiatus between books two and three, which caused me to reread books one and two at the time.

Book four, Watcher of the Dead, sees the action really hotting up. "Rentless" isn't a word I use a lot, especially in a 400 page novel but it really is suitable in this instance: from Angus Lok, to Raif, to the Eye, Effie, Raina and so on, at the start of each and every chapter you're desperate to continue the story of the person from the last chapter. For all of two pages anyway, and then you're gripped by the continuation of the next characters story arc.

Poor old Raif is looking like he's going to be held together entirely by scar tissue at some point in the not to distant future, there is some imagination involved in the regular torments he suffers. Certainly wouldn't want to get the wrong side of the person that dreamt them up ;)

Part of the skill is keeping a tight rein on your characters, if they wander off you spend too much time getting them into place for the finale, and this is where series can lose it in the middle- endless trekking, contrived reasons for going somewhere and a lot of boredom for the reader. It's obvious JVJ has spent a lot of time planning this series and this book particularly because at volume 4 we've not really encountered pointless marching for the sake of getting the chess pieces in the right place.

The only issue I have with this book is a silly one really. It's so well written if you read the series back to back it exposes the shortfallings of the first book. Thats not to say Cavern of Black Ice is badly written because it isn't, but this is on a different level, the writing is up there with the top contemporary fantasy crowd. I shudder to think the level of research thats gone in to some of it :)

All in all, well worth reading. If you've read the other 3, it's a no brainer to get this, if you haven't, go grab volume one, you're in for a treat.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Couldn't put this down!, 29 Aug 2011
This review is from: Watcher Of The Dead: Book 4 of the Sword of Shadows (Paperback)
JV Jones is one of those writers who gets better with every book. Her earlier series were good but didn't leave a lasting impression. The Sword of Shadows series is different, and Watcher of the Dead, the fourth book, particularly so. From the moment I picked it up, I struggled to put it down. And it's all because of the awesome characters. Within the series there is an overarching plot about the Endlords escaping their prison in the Blind and destroying the world. But within this, each of the different characters has their own story. Raif, Ash, Raina, Vaylo, Angus, Bram, Effie - the list goes on. Each character is brilliantly drawn and you laugh, cry, hate with them all. Ash isn't in this story much but Raif, Vaylo, Raina, Bram and Effie's stories are moved on a pace, with Effie's being particularly interesting. Jones manages to create an incredibly intricate world full of colour and detail that brings it alive. You can smell the treachery in Spire Vanis, feel the cold of the Want, see the beauty of the Sull Heartfires. This is a great book. I just hope we don't have to wait so long for the fifth one.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent characterisation, but variable plot advancement, 27 Mar 2013
By 
A. Whitehead "Werthead" (Colchester, Essex United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Watcher Of The Dead: Book 4 of the Sword of Shadows (Paperback)
Raif Sevrance is in possession of the sword known as Loss. Unfortunately, he is also the 'guest' of a renegade group of Sull, who are determined to use him and his abilities for their own ends. Elsewhere, Ash March finds herself in the heart of Sull territory, knowing she will find in them her greatest allies...or her greatest danger. War continues to rage in the clanholds, with the armies of Blackhail, Bludd and Dhoone converging as Gandmiddich for a climactic showdown. In Spire Vanis the new surlord struggles to hold onto power, and in the wilds the ranger Angus Lok relentless hunts down a wily enemy.

Watcher of the Dead brings the Sword of Shadows series to its fourth - and hopefully penultimate (though Jones has hinted that the series may expand to six volumes) - instalment. It's a slightly slimmer novel than its forebears, being a clear 100 pages shorter than the third volume, and benefits from a tighter focus on the core storylines. Raif and Ash get a fair bit of attention, whilst Angus Lok returns to the fore after spending most of the third book missing. Effie's storyline also moves forward more satisfyingly, with her relevance to the main storyline becoming clearer. The Dog Lord and Raina Blackhail also benefit from contrasting storylines in which both seek to consolidate (or re-consolidate, in Vaylo Bludd's case) their authority in the face of opposition.

There are some drawbacks to this. The tightened focus mean there's no time or room for Crope and Baralis, who simply fail to appear. Also, a tight focus on a large cast in a more constrained page count means a relative lack of major progression in any one arc. So Effie spends most of the book in a roundhouse in a swamp and then takes a short trip in a boat (although a hugely important one). Raif spends almost the entire book as a prisoner of the Sull. Ash, having set out to reach the Sull Heart Fires at the start of Book 2, finally gets there halfway through Book 4 and has a couple of conversations (and the revelation of a 'major' plot twist which is tiresomely predictable, the first disappointing plot turn in the series to date). Important things happen in these chapters, but there is definitely a contrast to the very busy and forwards-moving first volume in the series.

Still, the series has never been action-packed and fast-moving, and Jones does give us some good battles. Raina Blackhail's storyline in fact is particularly strong, aided by the arrival of an intriguing new character, and Angus Lok's revenge storyline is extremely tense. Best of all is Raif's character arc. Back in Book 1 he was the very embodiment of the 'callow youth saves the world' trope, but by the end of this volume he is a severely traumatised, battle-hardened warrior desperately searching for himself. The subversion of the traditional fantasy hero's journey is very well-done.

Watcher of the Dead (****) benefits in some ways from a (slightly) shorter page count and tightened focus, but it also suffers from it, with a lack of plot progression in some storylines and some characters simply not showing up. The benefits to characterisation are clear and there are clear signs of the scattered characters starting to come together, but we're not on the home straight yet. The novel is available now in the UK and USA. The fifth volume, Endlords, is apparently still forthcoming but there has not been a firm update on its status from the author in more than two years.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Watcher of the Dead, 26 Aug 2011
This review is from: Watcher Of The Dead: Book 4 of the Sword of Shadows (Paperback)
Having read the first three books in the series, I was looking forward to this. Unfortunately, while the book was good, I was disappointed at the end as I still don't know if this was the last in the series or is there going to be a book 5?
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I love a book I can get my teeth into!, 11 May 2011
By 
JJ (California, USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Watcher Of The Dead: Book 4 of the Sword of Shadows (Paperback)
I've read the entire series of The Book of Words and The Sword of Shadows now and I'm dying to get to the next one. J. V. Jones has a wonderful gift of storytelling, which includes all the gritty details and some captivating prose.

In this book the story continues the series, with dark magic, epic battles to be fought and all of JVs great style. The only part I felt a little saddened by was the absence of Baralis, at the end of the last book we only just found out he was alive, I was hoping to see more of him in this book - he's been the bad guy for so long I'm curious to find out what happens to him next.

I suspect that somewhere in these stories we're also going to meet Jack again, or at least find out what happened to him. This novel is a fantastic read, but start at book one to get here or you'll miss some really great side stories along the way.

If The Book of Words series was a tale of ancient knights, royalty and sorcery. Then The Sword of Shadows is a tale of ancient tribes, warriors and mystics. Both series are connected by the same bloodlines, and it's an exciting journey to follow them and find out if those bloodlines will every cross paths.

If you like fantasy fiction that offers you everything I'd recommend the whole series - starting with The Bakers Boy. If you've read book 3 of The Sword of Shadows series, then this book is a must read!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars great SF, 25 Feb 2011
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This review is from: Watcher Of The Dead: Book 4 of the Sword of Shadows (Paperback)
As with all J.V. Jones books it's hard to put down a realy great read, you should read the whole series to follow the story better as it follows on from the ones before but thought it fantastic.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant, 3 Feb 2011
By 
W. H. L. Friesen "glanconer" (netherlands) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Watcher Of The Dead: Book 4 of the Sword of Shadows (Paperback)
I received the book
Starting reading
Partly in bed, partly in bath, partly in bed
And finished it in one day

Brilliant
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Oh no, not another ever-lengthening fantasy epic., 21 Oct 2010
Quite a bit smaller than the three books which preceded it, Watcher for the Dead doesn't really progress the story as much as it should have. The quite poorly-written recap at the start of the book is its worst feature, with the evolution and development of the main characters and story too slow to leave readers waiting expectantly for number five. Hopefully Jones will try to tie the story threads together more in the next installment, which should be, at the very most, the second last in the series.
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17 of 21 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Still a bridge too far, 26 April 2010
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P. Spicer (London) - See all my reviews
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This is definitely a bridging novel, although I seriously doubt the final book will be the final and fifth book. For a war against the mighty endlords I kind of expected.... well an endlord or at least some kind of major conflict, instead all we saw was character progression. I did enjoy many of the characters growth, I just felt that very little happened in the overall conflict. As someone else pointed out the only way the last book can be the final book is if it's huge and judging by the current length (448 pages) I doubt that will be the case. The first two books were great, but after a five year wait for the third and another two for the fourth, its a long wait for nothing much to happen. When a story becomes more focused on character progression than story progression we fall into the Robert Jordan fold, which while brilliant, was a series that should have ended sooner.
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Watcher Of The Dead: Book 4 of the Sword of Shadows
Watcher Of The Dead: Book 4 of the Sword of Shadows by J. V. Jones (Paperback - 3 Feb 2011)
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