Karen Hancock’s Christian fantasy fiction series “Legends of the Guardian-King” continues in the second installment, The Shadow Within. This book picks four years after the end of The Light of Eidon. Abramm Kalladorne, having defeated the Esuhrite king Beltha’adi, has spent that time living among the Dorsaddi. TSW opens with Abramm returning home to Kiriath, where a sea monster is attacking ships in Kalladorne Bay, bringing Kiriathan commerce to a standstill.
Abramm’s younger brother, Gillard has ruled as prince-regent over the last four years following the death of their older brother, King Raynen. But Gillard has done nothing about the problem of the kraggin attacking the ships off the coast of Kiriath. After killing the creature, Abramm approaches Kiriath’s Table of Lords to seek his rightful place as king. Esuhr’s Armies of the Black Moon are on the move, and as king, Abramm hopes to prepare Kiriath to repel the coming invaders. The Table grants his request, setting the stage for a series of assassination attempts orchestrated by Gillard.
The new king also must deal with his former brethern in the Mataian priesthood who claim that Abramm is still one of them, and declare him their “Guardian-King.” Master Rhiad, a Mataian priest gone rogue, plots to humiliate and destroy Abramm. Meanwhile, Abramm’s twin sister Carissa is hiding far north in the border territories, estranged from both her husband, the earl of Balmark, and her brother. Carissa still harbors a lot of hatred four years after Abramm became a Terstan. But is it Abramm she hates, or Eidon himself? A fairly large portion of the book focuses on Carissa’s own spiritual journey.
The use of the term “Shadow” in this series takes on multiple meanings. It’s one of the names used for Moroq, the Satan figure in Hancock’s world. It can also be used in reference to the collective body of rhu’ema (demons) Moroq sends to attack Eidon’s people. But the use found in the title of this book refers to the sinful nature of the flesh. Much of the story is devoted to Abramm’s personal struggle against his own inner Shadow while learning to rely on Eidon’s strength instead of his own.
Hancock also introduces some new characters: Evritt Kesrin, head of a local shipping company and a kohal (Terstan term for “pastor”); Simon Kalladorne, Duke of Waverlan, and Abramm’s atheist uncle; Haldon, Abramm’s royal chamberlain and a Terstan. And then there’s Lady Madeleine, Second Daughter of the king of Chesedh, Kiriath’s eastern neighbor. Returning from the previous book is Trap Meridon, former captain of the Kiriathan Royal Guard, now a sworn liegeman to King Abramm.
The Shadow Within is a strong sequel to The Light of Eidon, as Hancock continues to take us along on Abramm Kalladorne’s spritual journey with Eidon, and she does a fascinating job of further developing her characters in this installment. This is an excellent book for fans of inspirational fiction, as well as fantasy fiction.