The Shadowhand Covenant, by Brian Farrey, was published in 2013 by Harper. It is the sequel to The Vengekeep Prophecies.
Trouble is brewing in the Five Provinces. Mysterious magical artifacts have gone missing from the royal vaults. Master thieves from a secret society known as the Shadowhands are disappearing. And without explanation, the High Laird has begun imprisoning the peaceful Sarosans. Jaxter Grimjinx suspects all these things are connected, but after the tapestry fiasco that nearly destroyed Vengekeep, he knows better than to get involved. Then he and his parents receive a summons from the Shadowhands—a summons that they would be foolish to ignore—and Jaxter is thrust into the heart of the conspiracy. With the help of a few new friends and an old friend he’d rather forget, Jaxter will have to delve deep into some long-buried—and dangerous—secrets.
The Shadowhand Covenant is a standard “middle book,” in that it introduces a lot of new concepts, new plot mechanics, new characters, and new mysteries to carry over to the third book. The formula works well, but I still wish that people would do a little more to try and stretch the boundaries of the standard trilogy format.
In any case, The Shadowhand Covenant manages to keep a lot of the charm of The Vengekeep Prophecies, although the tone wasn’t quite the same. But I liked the intrigue and mystery and the lightning bolt of anticipation and realization that struck me when I figured out who the villain was. I was a little confused at the end with who-tricked-whom and who-knew-about-which-relics, but other than that the plot flowed nicely from the world set up in the first book (although I wish the first book had introduced more things like the Sarosans and the relics).
I liked Callie in the first book, so I’m not sure if benching Callie for most of the book was a good or bad decision. Good that we saw new characters, bad that an interesting character from the first book was sidelined. I didn’t actually notice her absence until near the end, but when I did notice it I missed her. Luckily, that’s when Farrey brings her back in.
Farrey’s been doing some interesting things with villains (having them not so obviously villainous at first), but also has an obviously villainous character who is undoubtedly going to be the biggest challenge that Jaxter & Friends face in the third book. It’s a little disappointing that he can’t also make the apparent Big Bad less obvious, but perhaps he will. I guess I’ll find out.
Recommended Age Range: 12+
Genre: Fantasy, Middle Grade
I took the back door into the alley. I’d only made it halfway down the passage when something large and heavy fell on me from above.
I hit the ground, the air rushing from my lungs. Head spinning from the impact, I looked around to find Maloch sprawled out next to me, shaking his head.
“What are you doing in the alley?” he asked.
I looked up and noticed that my second-floor bedroom window was open.
“What are you doing jumping out of windows?” I said back to him.