Title: Shadow of a Dead God (Mennik Thorn Book One)
Publisher: Five Fathoms Press
Author: Patrick Samphire
Price: $15.99 / $2.99
Mennik Thorn is a mage for hire. In the city of Agatos, this makes him an oddity. Not the mage part; those are thick on the ground in a city as large and old as Agatos. The “for hire” part, though? Mages are the city elite, lording over the nonmagical masses. That one would hire himself out to solve mundane problems — lost pets, stolen heirlooms, ghosts — is a supreme embarrassment to his family. But Nik wants nothing to do with the corrupt magical politics of the city, even if that means living on the edge of poverty. So when his oldest friend comes to him with a job, Nik (reluctantly) agrees. Than he finds out that the job involves breaking into the home of a powerful mage and stealing a cursed ledger. And then the job goes horribly sideways, and Nik finds himself being hunted by the Ash Guard. With only his wits, his mediocre magical talent, and a knife-wielding eleven year-old girl at his side, Nik has to figure out who set him up, why, and what all of that has to do with the savage creature haunting the streets of Agatos ….
I discovered Patrick Samphire when one my favorite authors, Stephanie Burgis, featured a notice about his upcoming book on her FaceBook page. Intrigued by the description and cover, I backtracked and found the first Mennik Thorn novel, Shadow of a Dead God.
This was another case of “download the sample and immediately purchase the book.” It was just so much fun!
Nik is wonderful: he’s stubborn, self-deprecating, and deeply loyal, with a strong ethical center. He has the power and connections to be more in his society — but only if he takes advantage of the inequalities and corruption that favors mages. That means stepping on a lot of powerless, innocent people, and he refuses to do that.
The supporting characters are just as fascinating and quirky in their own right. Benny the thief. His daughter Sereh, who might by a sociopath given how much she loves her knife and how often she offers to kill someone. Captain Gale of the Ash Guard, loyal not to the city’s politicians but to the city itself. And more.
The world-building is wonderful. Agatos is a labyrinth of a city, with diverse neighborhoods and populations. The magic and theological systems are also unique. In the fictional world created by Samphire, Gods are born, live, and die all the time. And they are physical beings. So when a God dies and begins to decay, the corpse gives off raw magic — raw magic that mages use. Yep. Mages are basically carrion eaters.
Unfortunately for Nik, what divides a living God from a dead God is unclear, and becoming more unclear by the moment. This case is turning his entire world upside down. And I have the feeling that future cases will keep doing the same. Poor guy.
Shadow of a Dead God is a terrific urban fantasy/mystery, and I can’t wait to read Nectar for the God. Highly recommended to fans of The Ettinfell of Beacon Hill by Adam Bolivar, The KC Warlock Weekly series by MN Jolley, The Trials of Abyowith by Erik Buchanan, and The Gunderson Case Files by Blaze Ward.
[Reviewed by Rebecca Buchanan.]