Skein of Shadows by Marsheila Rockwell

Sabira is celebrating her Badge Day, when the party is interrupted by news of an important discovery in the expedition to Tarath Marad. However, the news is not all good. Tilde, sister to Sabira’s old flame, Ned, is missing. Sabira is designated as the leader of the rescue mission and sets off to meet her drow guide. But when a dragon attacks her wagons, and her guide acts as if he’s got something to hide, Sabira begins to wonder what she’s gotten herself into.

Skein of Shadows is the sequel to The Shard Axe. Set in Wizards of the Coast’s world of Eberron, it continues the tale of Sentinel Marshal Sabira Lyet d’Deneith, a.k.a “The Shard Axe”.  A name she acquired for the  dragonshard urgrosh she wields with deadly efficiency.  Skein of Shadows takes place about two months after the events of The Shard Axe.

The opening sequence of the book really sets the hook.  Marsheila completely immerses  the reader in the setting and you do not feel like a passive bystander but an active participant in the story.  I could feel the claustrophobic caverns, hear the clash of battle, and most of all, sense the mounting tension of Sabira’s task and the potential large scale repercussions it could have.

We meet up with some familiar faces from the previous book; Elix and Aggar, and some new ones, the most interesting of which is Tilde, Elix’s cousin, and also her deceased partner Ned’s sister.  Tilde and Sabira share more than just a cousin/lover, they share part of a Prophecy that could spell doom  for all of Eberron.

We get to see Sabira move out of her comfort zone a bit.  As a Sentinel Marshal she is used to working alone but this time she is in charge of a group.  The mantle of leadership weighs heavy on her as she is forced to deal with loss during the book.  It was interesting to see how much she cared for the welfare of her group, including the warforged.

I love Marsheila’s writing style.  It is descriptive, painting a vivid picture for the reader, and the prose is tight, with no wasted words.  Each and every word carries the plot forward with maximum efficiency.  No fluff or filler found here folks.   Here is an example of probably the most beautiful battle sequence I have ever read.

“Greddark’s blade flamed, casting hellish shadows as the cavern  walls echoed with the music of battle; the high, ringing tones of steel on steel melding with the lower, more brutal notes of steel on flesh.”

It is not a long sequence in terms of word count but the visual it gives the reader will stay long after the book is finished.  I not only saw the battle but I felt it.

I really like the cover art and I think it is one of the best to date because not only is it a stunning piece of artwork, but it also  captures Sabira’s mood perfectly. She looks pensive, pondering her duty, her loss, and the daunting task ahead.  I did not see the full color cover until after I read the book, but after seeing the color edition I see how well the cover really sets the tone of the book.

Skein of Shadows is The Empire Strikes Back of Eberron.  It starts with a bang and ends with a nuclear explosion.  The force of which will be felt throughout all of Eberron.  Marsheila shows that she has the chops to compete with the best fantasy authors out there and I can’t wait to read more of her work.  Whether you are a veteran of Eberron or just looking for a book you won’t want to put down, read Skein of Shadows, you won’t be disappointed.

This is the first book in the Eberron setting that is centered around the drow.  This coincides with Wizards of the Coast’s new Rise of the Underdark and the new expansion of Dungeons and Dragons Online.

Skein of Shadows will be available in ebook July 3, 2012 from Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

This review was of an electronic review copy from NetGalley.

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