Book Review : In the Shadow of Lightning

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review : In the Shadow of LightningIn the Shadow of Lightning (Glass Immortals #1) by Brian McClellan
Published by Tor Books on June 21st 2022
Pages: 576
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Source: NetGalley

Magic is a finite resource—and it’s running out.
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.

In the Shadow of Lightning is the first work I’ve read by Brian McCellan. I picked up this book after reading the blurb from Brandon Sanderson, who recommended it to anyone looking for a “new favorite fantasy series.” Unfortunately, In the Shadow of Lighting was not my new favorite series by any stretch. Though the novel had really interesting premises, like glass known as “godglass” that grants the bearer special abilities, I really didn’t care for the writing style or most of the characters.


The biggest hurdle for me in reading In the Shadow of Lightning was the writing style. I found the dialogue to be incredibly cheesy and like everyone delivering those unbelievable lines was simply trying too hard to be cool. I perhaps could have gotten over this cringe-inducing dialogue, if it weren’t that on top of it, everything is simply told to readers. Characters even talk to themselves to make their feelings even more abundantly clear than they already are, rather than them being hinted at or shown through actions. There is absolutely no subtlety whatsoever. What’s worse, is that events in In the Shadow of Lightning happen far too quickly. Conflicts, reveals, and reconciliations are never given any time to sink in, which ultimately robs these situations of any gravity.


‘“I am the greatest killer in this world,’ he declared, his voice rising as he spoke, his eyes taking on a terrifying fire. ‘I will not concede that title to a freak from an adventure novel. I am Baby Montego!’ He was roaring at the door now, shoulders thrown back, chest thrust out. ‘You hear that, Tall Man? I am Montego, and I will end you.’”


The previous quote gave me strong, “My name is Inigo Monoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die,” vibes, but without all that essential irony and humor of The Princess Bride. In the Shadow of Lightning is regrettably 100% serious with lines such as these, and they are unfortunately frequent. It doesn’t help matters that characters love referring to themselves as their titles, like the Lightning Prince. Other characters sincerely refer to people beneath their class or rank as “insignificant ants” and I wonder how I am supposed to believe anyone actually speaks this way.


The characters for me were similarly shallow. Though I enjoyed reading from the perspective of a female enforcer named Kizzie the most, I found that all of the characters, including her, were more examples of archetypes and tropes than actual developed characters. For instance, main protagonist Denmir is the former prodigal son of a powerful guild family who returns home for vengeance after running from his previous disgrace. Kizzie is the bastard daughter of a guild family who isn’t afraid to get her hands dirty, despite hating to lie, and not-so-secretly longs to be recognized as a legitimate member of the family. Thessa is an orphan from nowhere with a tragic past that is perhaps the greatest siliceer (godglass smith) to ever live and coincidentally, perfectly suited to help Denmir. Indrina is the killing machine who cares more about his fellow soldiers than his own personal well being. All of these characters read more like tropes than actual nuanced characters.


By far my favorite parts of In the Shadow of Lightning were the parts involving the godglass and glassdancers. I found the idea of a glass that granted so many different abilities quite unique. I also really thought glassdancers, mages born with the ability to control glass, (think Magneto from X-Men but with glass and not metal), pretty interesting as well. I think author Brian McCellan did a good job showing the fear and awe with which normal characters regarded glassdancers too.


Though I was also interested in some of the politics and conspiracies between guild families as well, I just could never quite manage to get truly invested in anything going on in the novel. Mysterious monsters appearing and leaving a trail of bodies in their wake? No. Secret organizations sending assassins? No. Denmir being vindicated of his past? No. Betrayal? No. Romantic feelings being acted on? No. It’s a shame, because I think In the Shadow of Lightning had a lot of good ideas, but was really held back by the writing.


Though I enjoyed the ideas of godglass and glassdancers, In the Shadow of Lightning really just wasn’t the book for me and I did consider DNF-ing it multiple times. I think that those that love reading about unique magical systems, political scheming, and battle scenes might enjoy this novel. But personally, I don’t see myself reading future entries in the series.


Book Review : In Shadow of Lightning - Blogging with Dragons

Posted April 19, 2022 in Book Reviews, Fantasy


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