Apt that this is my first official book read for the month: a book that was not on my list at all. Regardless, this novel is the first novel in a self published series by a Youtuber named Shad M. Brooks. Let’s dive in.
Customary warning: This is a reminder that these are my personal opinions. My thoughts and feelings are not your thoughts and feelings. I may not always be the target audience for a book; sometimes I am. If I do not like a book, that doesn’t mean you’ll dislike it. If I love a book or simply like a book, you may hate it. Take everything I say with this knowledge. If it sounds interesting to you despite what I’ve said, then go ahead and read it. You’ll only know you like something if you read it yourself.
That being said… Spoilers ahead.
Shadow of the Conqueror by Shad M. Brooks
Synopsis From The Book
Who better to fight back the darkness of the world than the one responsible for most of it?
Daylen, once known as the Great Bastard, the Scourge of Nations, Dayless the Conqueror, has lived in hiding since his presumed death. Burdened by age and tremendous guilt, he thinks his life is coming to an end. Unbeknownst to him he’s about to embark on a journey towards redemption where his ruthless abilities might save the world. Many battles await with friends to be made and a past filled with countless crimes to confront, all the while trying to keep his true identity a secret.
Indeed, it might be too much if not for the fabled power awaiting him.
Everfall is a world of perpetual day where the continents float in an endless sky. If one jumps from the continent they will fall for many hours before returning to the same place from which they fell. Skyships rule the air powered by shining sunstone and industrial darkstone. A legendary order of knights bears mystical powers which they use to hunt out the dreaded Shade, monsters that regular people turn into if trapped in darkness for the length of a fall.
It is a world of enchanted swords, merciless monsters, mystical knights and hard magic, filled with tales of wonder and adventure.
Initial Thoughts Before Reading:
Okay so, yes. Let’s begin with the fact that I do follow Shad on YT. For those of my followers who do know, he’s a YTer who talks about historical, and medieval fantasy and facts. When I found out he was self publishing, you can be sure that I preordered. By the time of me reading this book, it will have been out less than 4 days.
I was initially intending to read it later this month, after I got my other readings out of the way and to let my hype settle. For I fear that my hype for books may cloud my judgement of them, and forgive them for some grievances that I may nitpick on others. It has not happened yet, from what I can tell, but I fear that it may. Regardless, I have been dying wanting to read this. And you know what? Burn out happens when you don’t listen to your heart and become a little spontaneous at times. Thus.
I’m reading it. And I’m okay with that. Here. We. Go!
Initial Thoughts After Reading:
With my history with self published novels, I was thoroughly entertained by this one. It breaks down into certain reasons, much of which I will discuss below. In general, however, I liked the book. I am excited for the following books. What this book does not have in plot it has in world building, history, and magic. This is a long series, I can already see that coming. What this book does well is it’s magic system, which I know I can go on and on about (And might do so. Fair warning) as well as it’s world and culture building. There is a lot to this world and I can’t wait for it to be explored.
One last warning before we go in, and if you want a tldr this is it. Magic and world building this book does well. Its a redemption story of one of the most vile men ever to grace the history books and literature. The comedy fell flat in places for me, but the rest of the story made up for it. I want to see this redemption story as it goes, because it is a fascinating concept to me.
I’m living for every moment of it. The rest of the series can not come fast enough.
That said. A second reminder of spoilers. This book has been out for less than a week when I will be posting the review and you are getting fair warning now.
It has been 20 years since the fall of Dayless the Conqueror, a man known for his cruelty of horrors. The man who tried to enslave the whole world, and almost succeeded. He was assumed dead but did not die. It has been twenty years since then, and now all Daylen wants to do is to die.
In his twenty years of isolation, a self imposed isolation initially to retake his empire, and later out of remorse, Daylen has come to realize that he truly was the monster they all saw him as. He was that monster, and in that he has remorse and guilt, having once more returned to a hero of the 4th Night. His self imposed isolation is to come to an end, and with it his suffering. After leaving a suicide note, and detailing of his whole life, he leaves to go to the edge of the world and to jump.
In theory, should he cross the Barrier while holding what is called a sunstone, he should die. For extra precaution, he takes a darkstone as well. He steps off the edge of the world and falls. Only when he crosses the Barrier — a place where the fall ends, and begins once more from above the continent. Essentially if you fall far enough below the continent you begin to fall from the sky above. — he has returned to seventeen years of age and his youth, along with new powers he did not have before: lightbinding.
With his new sets of powers, Daylen sets out to try to save the world once more. Only this time he will not do it the way he had before. Before he had done it and enslaved the world, this time he wishes to do it by helping one person at a time. Daylen tests his powers, and finally arrives home to meet a lightbringer named Ahrek.
Daylen attempted to get home before his suicide letter was found, but was too late and now his whole two (and soon the world) will know that Dayless the Conqueror was alive. Attempting to hide his identity, Daylen calls himself, his son. He believes it best suited to cover up the fact that he is linked to all of his “fathers” old weapons and sunforged equipment. He looks “identical” to Daylen, and so it is the only option he has to hide. He also knows he has to falsify his birth certificate if this is going to work. So he makes his trek to the Capital. Ahrek follows him.
During this time two Archknights, the only organization who is to have the capabilities of allowing people to become lightbinders, are hunting Daylen after a disturbance he called: Lyrah and Cueseg.
On the journey to the Capital, Daylen and Ahrek stop in a city where Daylen kills a lot of people after they have committed horrible crimes. Then they take a boat through pirate airspace, and end up in a fight. Daylen learns more about his powers, kills the pirate crew, and the crew of the boat transporting him — for they were illegally transporting women to be sex slaves — and then goes to rescue the pirate’s kidnapped hostages. During this, he battles some Shade, and remembers the 4th Night.
On this journey, Daylen comes into the realization that he may have fathered hundreds of bastards in his time as Emperor. He had believed that the security measures to keep them barren had worked, but the pirate captain was his son and who knew how many more he had. They arrive at the capital and are intercepted by Lyrah and Cueseg. Daylen, who was going to turn himself in for the crimes of murder, flees at their attack. Lyrah, Cueseg, and Ahrek come to an agreement, and meet up with Daylen.
From there Daylen and Lyrah go to the police, when Daylen is passed of all crimes for he had been acting justly (and with his Archknight defense, he is given almost a full pass. But he has to have this lie, because if it were revealed that one could become an Archknight without dediccating themselves to the light, there would be mass chaos). Daylen and Lyrah then take on the Dawnists, a group of radicles that want to bring back the Dawn Empire, and discover their plot to destroy the capital.
Daylen and Lyrah begin to try to help. Lyrah goes off to sound evacuation measures. Daylen goes to Ahrek who reveals himself, and reveals he knows Daylen is not the son but the father. The two fight, as longest time enemies. Daylen doesn’t kill Ahrek but leaves him disabled for a time before running off to help with evacuation more. Ahrek meets up with Lyrah and tells her the truth. She has a break down because Dayless had raped her as a child (of 14) and vows revenge. She and Ahrek go to find Daylen and attack him.
This fight is cut short due to the falling island from the sky (what the Dawnists are using to destroy the capital) surrounded by shade. Lyrah goes to help her fellow Archknights, and Daylen and Ahrek fight a true duel with no powers. A part of Daylen wants to die, but can’t from his pride, but Ahrek still manages to land a fatal blow. However as Daylen is dying, Ahrek forgives him for he will not find peace if he can not, and then heals Daylen. Daylen curses the Light for forcing him to live, and then they go to stop the falling island.
He and Lyrah kill off the shade, and then Daylen uses his powers to an ability not typically possible, and then falls to his death. Lyrah catches him but he is dead, only not really because his powers heal him. (It is important to note that by this time, Daylen has almost died or died multiple times, but the Light keeps forcing him to come back and stay alive, both as a curse and for other reasons we do not yet know.) He is revealed to be Dayless turned young, awakes, and then is taken into prison to face sentencing.
His sentencing and trial, is perhaps one of the biggest affairs ever, with rulers of all countries coming as witness, and the world on their toes to watch. All the grievances are laid out before him: the murder of hundreds of millions (if not billions, we never get the final total), the rape of over four hundred girls and young women (finding that he has a lot of bastard born children), and all the other crimes he committed in his time as the Conqueror. During this trial his actions from being reborn are named heroic, but he is given and then stripped of the title. Everyone, but the Archknights, know that he has sworn himself to the Light, and so that has to be considered. Expecting to finally be allowed to die, the sentencing is that he is put into permanent servitude with the Archknights, a plan of his, had he not been caught, and his long time enemy. The book ends with him and Ahrek parting, and him joining with Lyrah to go to the Archknights.
What I Liked:
Magic system; Good old fashioned hard magic. There are different attributes to this magic system but it ends up with three types: lightbrining, lightbinding, lightblaring. The first two are human magics, the last is the Shade’s. We get the rules. We see the mechanics behind it, in Daylen’s tests. We will get more of it, but the magic is rooted firmly in real world principals and concepts, while still being magic. There are paragraphs upon paragraphs dedicated the exploration and the rule making in this book. This may be boring to some that read it, but I find it highly important for forthcoming books. It is necessary for ensuring the rules are in place and so we get get a deeper dive into it, before we witness what it can do fully. I would imagine the second book will dive further into the magic, as Daylen will be an Archknight, but these steps are necessary for hard magic systems. The rules need to be clear, defined, and formal in order to get the magic to work properly and to continue to work properly within a world.
Blending of magic and science; This was beautiful. Science still exists in this world, and is similar to the industrial revolution, in terms of structure and world. Their world is reinforced by magic, but magic is a study and they are always aiming to learn more and as much as possible. Their weapons and culture breathes with the magic, as do their religions. It’s important in hard magic systems, that the laws of the world, as applied by science, work with the magic and this book does that. The study of magic, while still magic, follows the principals of engineering, and physics, similar to our own world but far different and removed.
World and Physic laws; So what are these world and physic laws? First world factor: the world of always day. You have High Fall and Low Fall. Both are times equidistant apart, that represent what we would know as Day and Night. Only, in a world of all day, they do not have that. Instead they have a perpetual counter of the time out in the distance that all can see that signals the time and is how they track hours, days, and years. How can everyone see this? Flat earth. Their world is flat, with floating islands above them (or below them, depending on how you look at it.) If you walk or fall off the edge, you fall until you cross the threshold of the Barrier and then start to fall from above the main continent instead. (This is how the time piece is forever in fall, High Fall is when it is coming from the sky. Low Fall is when it is half way to the Barrier). When it is Night, we get the world of horrors and terrors where evil creatures called Shade, try to destroy the world. These Shade are people who were in the dark for too long. So we got a all day world, flat earth where you will always return to the continent if you fall off (or rather will be stuck in perpetual fall, unless are saved), and repercussions for being in the Dark. Based on this, they worship the Light, and have religions surrounding it.
Physics? Well mass laws, light laws, and other similar laws all apply. Conservation of mass, conservation of energy, friction, etc. They are all in this world in their own applications. Light magic is what is able to twist and corrupt these laws of physics. It is what makes the magic, magic, manipulating these set in stone laws of physics.
World Building: Culture; I’ve touched how there are multiple religions. There are religions for different countries. Each country has their own hair color natural to their land, as well as skin colors. They have their own basic cultures. Take Cueseg’s for a second. His people high high standards of food, and for temptation. They are all about being open and blunt, while resisting the temptation of the bodies and mind, to be rational and in some ways pure. Another culture is a matriarchal one, where they believe in purification of temptation through sex and the flesh of a woman, for she is pure and a part of their god (as she can bring life into the world). The cultures we see and touch on are distinct, and yet similar to each other. Their cultures can be traced back and understood, even if by a little. We do not get much on all the cultures, but we get a glimpse at a few. We have sword culture in the book and dueling. Both are accepted everywhere and are encouraged, as all must be prepared for the next Night. With this we get rankings for sword masters with Grand High Master of the sword as the highest rank (both Daylen and Ahrek are this rank).
Profanity and World Language; In these cultures and countries we get languages. During the time of the Empire there was a unified language, but after the empire, they returned to their original ones, still using the unified for specific purposes. In addition to this there is a whole series of profanity used that is specific to this world and this world alone. Is this so different in any fantasy or high fantasy? No. I just want to make a note of the fact, in case anyone reads and is thrown off at first. For there are culturally specific words, and profanity, used early on that explained later on through context. I like being thrown into worlds and having to scrape up context clues to understand what some things are. It is a fuller world in my opinion, but I know some people like being eased into it. And for how fast we were thrown in, there was equal measure explanation over some things (like the counting of hours).
World Building: History; This book spends a lot of time on history. At the beginning of each chapter we get a bit of Daylen’s letter and depictions of his life from his perspective. Throughout the book we learn of what he did through his own thoughts, or the words and reactions of others. We learn of what the Nights are, as well as how Dalyen became Dayless. We learn of the actions he took, the people he destroyed, of massacres, and of how he was meant to fall. Culture is reflected in history and vice versa, and this book is the beginning of a redemption arc, and as such we have to learn the gravity of what he did.
Did not shy away from the horrors of it all (Daylen); This book holds no punches when it comes to the absolute vile actions of Daylen. He killed? Millions. With his own hands? Brutally and disgustingly. There is a part at the beginning where Daylen annihilates a man for even attempting to harm him (when he has his youth back). He cuts of his arms, and then his head before slamming the head and impaled it. Later on he impales the pirate captain, and the slave trade captain good old Vlad the Impaler style (aka from the ass to the head). We get the fact that he took young women and girls to his bed, preferring virgins above all else, and how by the end of it they were threatened by his people (unbeknownst to him in full) and forced into his bed. He’d degrade them, strip them of anything to clothe themselves with, and use them until they got too clingy, where as he’d discard them and kill them should they ever return. He was not a good person, and the fact that this book highlights that is interesting.
Daylen; He is absolutely vile and he knows it. I hate Daylen, for what its worth. Morally, I despise him. As a book character I find him fascinating and wish to read more about it. His entire concept is not unfamiliar, when compared to tyrants and the atrocities of many a man in history. What he has done can not be so easily forgiven or forgotten. He knows this, and yet he feels remorse and grief for what he has done. He will never be good, but grey? He can certainly be grey, and are those not my favorite characters? Seeing how he grieves, self hates, and aims for redemption for himself because of himself is intriguing. Will I ever forgive him, myself? Later books will tell, but he is a brilliant character to read about.
Villains who are able to take over most of the world are smart, and Daylen is smart. He is a masterful tactician, and a Grand High Master of the sword. He is almost a master forger, great pilot and engineer. That is about where his talents lie, and in all else he has not much. All of his talents are justified. In the 4th Night he had to become a master of the sword, and other aspects. He is brilliant and so engineering came easily to him, with that the master in forgery came as well as being a good pilot. He loves engineering and so he advanced technology and the likes. From his time at war and with the people, he began to understand people, and how they move. His mastery of the sword, as explained in universe, is more about understanding how people move and why than simple skill with a sword. This helps him become a masterful tactician. He makes decisions based on this and all his talents can be justified, as well as explained as a man with talents at the body of seventeen but the experience of Two civil wars, controlling an empire, and a Night of war. He has lived a lifetime of achievements, and has his talents that reflect that, how he will grow is what is interesting.
Ahrek/Rayaten Leusa; He is the Lightbringer chosen by the Light to guide and protect Daylen on the first leg of his journey. The man is also the one who began and executed the rebellion and revolution against Daylen’s empire. He is also living in a world of redemption and trying to find purpose in his life after the war and losing everything. He is a brilliant character and much of who he was, we learn through stories as well. Who he is, we see in how he interacts with Daylen of the present. I hope we do not lose him in subsequent books because he is such a brilliant character, and it’s through him that I think we will come to understand better how to forgive Daylen. Ahrek already has, but the reader may not. He’s also a Grand High Master of the sword as well as a powerful Lightbringer. His skills in other subjects, are explained and justified, as is his hate. He’s my favorite character of the series right now, so I really want him to come back.
Trial and Reveal; This was something I was wondering from the beginning. Would this book take his secret and keep it a secret, make him make up for all his crimes in secret and keep the secret over our heads for the whole series until half way through or the end where it is revealed and he has to prove himself? Or would it get rid of the mask of identity early on, and go a different path. I have seen many books where the secret identity looms overhead as a massive weight, where the reader is waiting for it to be revealed, and often those reveals are great. However, this book does rid of that and rids him of his mask in the first book. What this does is it gives freedom to the narrative of the ever present “but what if they find out” fear. Daylen is hated, and I find that story far more interesting then him trying to hide his identity at all times. Now that they all know, how will he progress from there? The trial at the end was full, and took the time that it needed all with giving a suitable punishment that made sense in their world. They think him beholden to the Light (due to the manipulation of the information from the Archknights) and thus want him to suffer for his crimes while working for the light. He is going to have to prove himself in a world that thinks him capable of little more than depravity. This is a redemption story, and we have to start from the bottom if we want to get that. I’m a sucker for good redemption arcs and this villain is the actual villain of the story, who is about to attempt to get one. Without the constant worry of reveal, we get to explore that redemption is a far fuller way, I feel.
Secondary and other Characters; In this I consider Lyrah and Cueseg. We learn much of the world and other cultures, as well as a bit of history through them. I found them well developed for secondary characters. Tertiary characters were far fewer, and as such having them as such large character was nice, and made me care for them.
What I Would Have Liked or Changed:
Comedy; Fell a little flat for me at times, while others hit me hard. As did some of the dialogue. However when the comedy got me? It got me. I’m also not one who is so pleased with comedy in books ever anyway. I find that more of a verbal talent than a written one, since much of comedy is the execution. However, some of the jokes just fell flat because of the language of them, and that can’t be changed.
Dialogue and Writing in General; There was some dialogue that fell flat for me (see above) as well as didn’t seem necessary. The writing in general could have used a bit more refining. It is very heavy in the exposition (which didn’t bother me as I found it necessary.) and since I know this can bother people, I’ll let you know. It’s magic exposition, which when I was reading I found in character for his character, but I’m just warning you.
Measurements; Now, I’m not typically for measurements being in books too heavily. It lends itself to math, and thus to analysis. For those, like myself, should something stick out like a sore thumb and become a continuity error, we will scrutinize it. However, this book needs it. It needs those measurements and details, because this magic system is a bit dependent on physics and measurements as we know them. It grounds the book a bit more, by having them. This is in, this section only because I want to make a note of it. I did like that it was added, but I worry that it could lend itself to issues in the future.
Time Taken To Read
Would I recommend this book to my friends? Yes. Is it a perfect book? No. Recommendation status supersedes perfection. Plus, nothing can be perfect.
“I once asked the Toulsen Ambassador if his ass was jealous of the amount of crap coming from his mouth.” – Daylen, pg6
“A precise strike that gets blocked is worse than a sloppy one that connects.” – Daylen, pg18
“Oh, this is going to be fun.” – cocky Daylen, pg126 (he has just been challenged by Ahrek to a duel because Daylen is being too cocky, and Daylen is far too over confident.)
” ‘Good… So, the weather’
‘What about it?’
‘It’s very weather-like.’
… ‘Yes. Similarly, I’ve notice that for some reason trees act a lot like trees.’
‘The world’s full of mysteries.’ ” – Daylen and Lyrah pg 357. (Daylen speaks first)