Group Review: The Shadow Mark (Lords of Davenia #2) by Mason Thomas

Auraq Greystone, once a military officer with a promising future, exists on the fringe of society. Accused of murder, Auraq is on the run from the ax—until two fugitives crash into his solitary life. One is a young man named Kane. The glowing marks on his arm pulse with an otherworldly power, and they have made him the target of a sinister organization called the Order of the Jackal. When the old man protecting Kane dies in an ambush, Auraq swears an oath to take his place.

But the runes are far more significant than they realize. They are a message from the shadow realm, a dark memory of the past—one holding evidence of a bloody massacre and its savage architect; one that will shake the kingdom to its foundation. Risking arrest and execution, Auraq fights to get Kane to the capital city where the cryptic marking can be unlocked. And with assassins close on their trail, Auraq might never get the chance to show Kane what’s in his heart—or the way their journey together has changed him.

The Shadow Mark is an epic tale of magic, murder, conspiracy, betrayal, and—for the two men tasked with unraveling the mystery—love and redemption.

3.833 average!

Sara - 5 Hearts

This book was amazing. Gods, was it ever.

I am going to get this out of the way and say while I had fun with Lord Mouse, I fell in love with The Shadow Mark and liked it… more. Auraq’s book is much different from Lord Mouse’s and it’s obvious from the first page. The writing is brilliant but Auraq is much quieter, much more melancholy, vulnerable and subdued with his internal action than our bouncing off the walls Mouse was. Though I adored Mouse, there is something about Auraq with his restless soul that tugged on my heart and made me crush on him in the first chapter. I marinated in Auraq’s POV until my fingers and toes were pruny and fell in love with him.

There are no limits to what certain men will do to keep a dark secret from reaching the light of day. Keep him safe.

We meet Auraq as he is settling in for the night, off the road and out of sight as he is a wanted man. When two men who are travelling to Har Diamante come up and ask if they can share with him what they have with Auraq and vice versa, he decides to oblige them. The men, an older man named Tan and his young apprentice Kane not only share their wine and a small story, with Auraq, but they share hired assassins who attack the trio and murder Tan. It’s as Tan lays dying that he makes Auraq promise to take care of Kane.

The meeting of Auraq and Kane happens quickly as does their being put together for the story but the story itself isn’t quick nor is the romance between the men. This is one hell of a slow burn and it was done so damn well. It’s almost as if you get the romance as you read between the lines because even Auraq, as brilliant as he is, doesn’t see what is happening right in front of him with Kane.

This is a layered story, one I like to refer to as an onion. What you see on the surface, is just that and it’s only as the layers are removed that we get to the meat of it all and some of it will bring your eyes to tears. Yup, there are parts of this that had me tearing up as we get down to it all.

So, Auraq meets Kane, promises Kane’s Master that he will protect him and deliver him safely but Auraq needs to know what’s up. When Kane shows him the marks on his arm, Auraq puts a plan into action to make sure they learn what the marks are and that Kane is safe, no matter what. Good lord. The lengths Auraq goes through to find a way out what the marks are and simply to keep Kane safe were amazing. This man, this exiled and wanted for murder soldier who ran away to save his own life repeatedly risks his life for Kane. It’s a damn good thing Auraq isn’t only smart, but skilled as a warrior and possess the intense need to protect Kane. Ack. This book just hit me in all the right places.

“This is a terrible idea.”
“You can trust him.”
“I don’t trust anybody. Except maybe you.”
I adored Kane. He is this man who is part of something he didn’t ask for. Every time he has to show the marks on his arm I felt for him. It was almost a level of shame attached and yet he had nothing to be ashamed of. How Kane instinctively trusts Auraq was lovely and how he is as fierce in his loyalty and protectiveness of Auraq just made my heart sing. I mean, just what he does with Auraq’s father is enough to want to put the man in my pocket! He gets Auraq in so many ways that he is the perfect match for Auraq, if only Auraq would take a moment and really notice him.

The fantasy was stepped up in this story and it was a joy to read. From visiting the Academy District with mages both vintage and brand new to learning about the runes, realms and ramifications of The Order of the Jackal to just… everything that we get made this story a gorgeous read. Getting the backstory of Auraq and why he carries two swords, why he is on the outs with his father, the whole deal with Bendo, the wolvern and how anyone who comes into contact with the mark on Kane’s arm comes to harm, made me irritated that I don’t read faster. I had to know it all, I needed to know what the Shadow Mark was and when we got it? Oh Nelly, was it ever good.

So yeah, this was good. The romance between Auraq and Kane is quiet yet fierce. The fantasy elements of the story were amazing, intriguing and detailed that they gave the story another element to fall in love with. The actions scenes were intense AF but really showed just how bad ass Auraq is and hey, don’t try to mess with Kane because it’s not going to end well. Just saying. At the end, this was one hell of a story that kept me glued to the page with excitement and want. That epilogue was beautiful and I cannot wait to read more from the author.

Fantasy Living - 2.5 Hearts

Auraq is a pretty serious guy. He is on the run, still mourning his dead wife, and the loss of his life in the King’s Army, and has no interest in participating in the world with people.

Kane is young. He’s an orphan. And the man who took him under his wing has died.That’s pretty much all I really know about Kane. Oh, and he has a weird mystical mark on his arm that is burning him and is the cause of Assassin’s pursuing him.

While I got a fairly good picture of Auraq, there was no real character building with Kane, nor was there much relationship building between the two. Auraq spent most of his time avoiding conversation with Kane, and making remarks about handing him off and completing the task he promised a dying man. I am seriously underwhelmed when it comes to this pair.

I like broody damaged characters. I think they have a lot of potential, and can be awesomely complex. Unfortunately this missed the opportunity to be that for me.

The adventure story was a good concept, and I did enjoy the expansion on the world building in this book. I also found that it dragged and I was bogged down with minute details I didn’t care about and didn’t really add a great deal to my overall view of this AU. While the writing was good, and most of the editing was tight, it was the overlaying of inconsequential details about landscape or actions, that I did not enjoy and skimmed through. This is my issue really. I’m impatient and have a hard time concentrating on lots of descriptives. I like just enough to see a clear picture, but once it goes into the hues of flower petals I no longer care (this didn’t really happen in this story, but I don’t have the patience to get an exact quote).

Maybe I was just having an off week. And after the fast pace of Lord Mouse, I probably had something else in mind, which skewed my expectations. We were also experiencing a heatwave and my a/c was broken so this could have contributed to my foul mood and overall enjoyment.
I will never really know.

I’d like the author to focus on building secondary characters. This was a complaint in my review of Lord Mouse, and I think it would really boost the story if this angle was achieved.

For those who enjoy a more descriptive Fantasy universe, this is recommended. If you’re looking for something similar to Lord Mouse, you will not find it here. This is based on a reclusive fugitive and a young man he happens to get stuck with. The highlight of this book for me was at around 70% when everything started coming together. That part of the writing was mostly tight, with action, and plot twists. I enjoyed immensely and it enabled me to complete the story feeling somewhat satisfied.

I am not done giving this author my attention. There is a lot of talent and imagination, and this world intrigues me. I just may need to ensure optimal reading conditions to ensure I am receptive before I attempt another story.

SheReadsALot - 3.75 - 4 Hearts

I jumped at the chance to review The Shadow Mark without even reading the blurb. Why? Lord Mouse is one of my favorite reads last year (my review), and Mouse is hands down one of my fave characters written. What drew me in was the adventure, the fantasy based world Mason Thomas created, the snark and wit.

And of course, Mouse.

If you've read Lord Mouse first (it's not necessary, it can be read as a standalone), you know the snark is heavy. Mouse demands attention with his very being. He's just that type of personality.

That is not to be found in The Shadow Mark.

Auraq was a soldier with a lot of promise. Now he's living on edges of society due to being accused of murder. One night, his solitude is interrupted by a pair of small townsmen. The younger of the men, Kane has mysterious magical marks that attract the wrong attention, assassin attention. Upon a dying man's oath, Auraq ends up being Kane's protector and bodyguard while they try to search for answers to the mysterious marks.

It's a mostly fast paced adventure full of backstabbing characters, killers and fighting.

A captivating read from start to finish, though I'll have to say the second half outweighs the first half.

Where I find this author flourishes: action and suspense - Thomas is clearly a gamer and it shows. He knows how to set an action scene, make it impactful enough. I appreciate sword fights, especially well-written scenes. Thomas thinks out the swing, the's great to read. Weaving a tale, keeping the suspense and action turned up high!

Where there is improvement: editing - Though I read an ARC, the tale in Shadow Mark is definitely more linear than Lord Mouse. Less time jumping which made a smoother read. Now as to a personal enjoyment, the fantasy is stepped up in Shadow Mark. The vocabulary read less modern compared to Lord Mouse (I don't mind either approach TBH)

Areas for improvement: The story is told mainly from Auraq POV, so his 'love' interest Kane and his attributes are told from Auraq. Auraq is tight-lipped and his 'romantic' feelings are definitely buried way, way, waaay deep. There wasn't much to go from since Kane was introduced as an annoyance and someone who was told to wait here and there, while Auraq took care of the grunt work. Kane could have been more even from Auraq's POV. He's introduced as young apprentice, didn't seem on much consequence. And he seemed like the means to an oath, not much a character with depth. Then the second half happened, where a romance sort of happens in between the mystery unfolds.

The romance is secondary in stories Thomas has presented so far. But I feel the initial reaction of Kane didn't wear off until way late. Just a glimpse or inkling more of Auraq's feelings would have made more of an impact for me. I'm fine with mere kisses, but the relationship goes from 0 to 100% and I'm still having difficulties buying it.

I live for tight-lipped heroes, especially ones that are not demonstrative. Auraq took that to an extreme. His protectiveness was palpable, it's what warmed me in the end. But the needed some work.

Readable? For sure.

But if you're a reader who needs sex in your romance or overly mushy displays, I wouldn't recommend The Shadow Mark. The novel is quieter than its predecessor, more of a tactical head game waiting to be played out.

The story and mystery are the main players, along with Auraq, the seemingly irredeemable criminal warrior with a heart of loyal gold. I loved the mystery, kinda guessed who was the culprit behind the treasonous crime. But how everything came together? That was fun.

Enjoyed the last chapter even more than the epilogue. Am I seeing a possible link between book #1 and #2's Lords? I really hope so.

Overall, great story stronger in all parts but romance than book #1. I'm definitely a fan of this series.

Find on Dreamspinner Press or Goodreads!

No comments:

Post a Comment