ARC Review – In the Shadow of Lightning

Hello, everyone! Today I have a late night review of a book I just finished this evening. I finally finished In the Shadow of Lightning by Brian McClellan, and it was quite the ride.

Demir Grappo is an outcast—he fled a life of wealth and power, abandoning his responsibilities as a general, a governor, and a son. Now he will live out his days as a grifter, rootless, and alone. But when his mother is brutally murdered, Demir must return from exile to claim his seat at the head of the family and uncover the truth that got her killed: the very power that keeps civilization turning, godglass, is running out.

Now, Demir must find allies, old friends and rivals alike, confront the powerful guild-families who are only interested in making the most of the scraps left at the table and uncover the invisible hand that threatens the Empire. A war is coming, a war unlike any other. And Demir and his ragtag group of outcasts are the only thing that stands in the way of the end of life as the world knows it.

***Thank you to NetGalley and Tor Books for providing a copy of the book. My review contains my honest thoughts about my reading experience.***

I’m not really sure where to start with this one other than to say I loved it. It had everything I love about epic fantasy: great world-building, compelling characters, a really cool magic system, lots of action, and plenty of political maneuvering with kingdom-altering stakes. In general, the story was a tense ride with steady pacing that kept upping its game the further I got into it. It built up to an ending that absolutely blew my mind, but we’ll get to that a little more later in the review.

First, the world-building was astounding. From the very start in the prologue, I was intrigued by the magic, politics, and history of the world. I loved the idea of magic being worked into pieces of glass, with different types of additives in the glass giving different powers. It made the magic a tradable commodity that almost anyone could use, which allowed for the exploration of the fascinating premise of what happens to an empire when one of its most valuable and widely used commodities becomes irrevocably scarce. Hint: nothing good… The world itself had a gritty realness to it, and the author did a fantastic job of writing vivid descriptions that brought it all to life. The politics was one of my favorite things about the book. I’m a sucker for stories with families warring over power and influence (see my obsession of the Green Bone Saga as exhibit A), and this story delivered that in spades. The murder mystery and the conspiracy of how it tied into the struggle between the families kept me turning the pages because I just had to know who was behind it all.

I loved every single one of these characters. A great deal of time in the book was devoted to developing them into three-dimensional people that each had their own distinct motivations, conflicts, and interests despite being caught up in the same general conspiracy. It is rare for me to like all the POVs in a book equally, but this one managed to pull it off. I never found myself wishing to skip a POV to get back to the interesting character(s) because they were all really great. If I had to pick a favorite character, though, it would have to be Demir. I really like characters who start out broken and slowly piece themselves back together over the course of the story, and Demir fit that mold perfectly. He also had really fascinating powers and was a master strategist, which made reading about him enjoyable as he worked through battle tactics and attempted to put all the pieces of the conspiracy together.

As a quick side note, I love how LGBT+ rep was portrayed in this book. It seemed to be a primarily bi/pan society that embraced the fluidity of sexuality in a nonchalant way. Sexuality was never specifically addressed by the characters (at least that I remember), but there were some characters in same sex partnerships and many others who made references to having had attraction to multiple genders. I liked this approach because it normalized the fluidity of attraction in this world. The romance element in this book was fine. It was very much in the back seat, and rightfully so given all the other world-changing things going on, but I’m looking forward to seeing how some of the relationships progress in future books.

Now on to the ending… It was wild, ya’ll. Never in a million years would I have guessed where this book was going. ***MILD SPOILER ALERT*** In retrospect, there were definitely signs sprinkled throughout the book, and the series title is actually a huge hint. The ending grabbed my attention and added a totally new dimension to the conflicts. The reveal just came way too late in my opinion. I was super invested in the guild family drama and the politics of it all. The ending felt like kind of a cop out to avoid having to figure out a meaningful way to conclude that drama by introducing a bigger boogeyman at the last minute. I’m definitely curious to see where the story is going now, though, because the ending sets up some really interesting ideas for the future. ***END MILD SPOILERS***

Overall, I really loved this book. The characters, world-building, and writing were all fantastic, and I’ll definitely be back for the sequel. The ending was a shocker, but I didn’t find it to be a super satisfying conclusion to all the story threads of this book. Luckily, there are more of them coming (hopefully) soon.

11 thoughts on “ARC Review – In the Shadow of Lightning

  1. Great review! I can tell how much you enjoyed it. Sounds like fantastic world-building and character development and I’m really curious now about the way this book ended (obvi I didn’t read the spoiler bit lol) but I want to be in the know 😂 Defo going on my TBR now!

    • Thanks! I was super curious about the ending too because I had seen in other reviews that it was a bit of a shock. It definitely wasn’t what I expected… I hope you like it when you get around to it.

  2. GOD, THE ENDING STILL HAS ME IN SHOCK, and its been a couple weeks since I’ve read this one. I’m glad I’m not the only one who felt like it really sort of came out of nowhere. I loved the rest of the book, but the ending just threw me for a loop!!! Great review!

    • Yeah. It definitely shocked me too. I don’t think I’ll know how I really feel about it until the other books come out. It sets up some pretty cool stuff, but didn’t really feel like a satisfying conclusion to the stories being told in the first book.

      • It almost felt like two different stories, really? Like the traditional family-feuding business and then the…ending that we got. Didn’t mesh well, but I will definitely read at least the next one to see how I feel about it.

  3. I want to read my eARC of this book because I keep hearing amazing things about it, but I know I won’t get to it anytime soon! Great review!

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