The good news is that except for the character growth of Caim, if a reader happens upon SHADOW'S MASTER before the first two novels (SHADOW'S SON and SHADOW'S LURE) they won't be lost. More so than the first book into the second, Sprunk gives a better accounting of things so that a new reader stumbling in won't be scratching their head and grow frustrated.
The other piece of good news is that this book pays off for readers of the previous two volumes. Caim's heritage, the nature of his otherworldly powers and his role as the 'Scion' are given center stage as he travels north to find out about his (not quite human) mother. A resolution is also found for the love triangle that is Josey-Caim-Kit, though I'm less keen on that aspect (I was never actually invested in either relationship, though I felt keenly for Josey's predicament during book 2).
The less good news is that because Sprunk seemed to make this more standalone than the previous two novels (despite being the third and final part of the trilogy), Caim's behavior seems off somehow. He's brooding, angsty and bothered by things that would have made more sense in book 1 then now in book 3.
My favorite parts, which probably say’s a lot about where my priorities were and how skewed they were, involved Josey and her schemes and machinations to keep her throne. Fortunately even without Caim around to help her do sneaky things, Josey forges alliances and has a number of people she can trust to help her stave off death and dethronement. By the end of the novel she finds her place in the world and finds herself able to come to terms with the changes she's undergone and I applaud her for it. Josey was never a weak character (irritating at times, but not weak) and her growth throughout the books has made me smile.
I'll give Sprunk credit, in what could have been a sentimental book dealing with the nature of families, history and love he still packs in enough fighting, bloodshed and action to keep just about anyone happy. Between Caim's battles in the north and Josey's battles to protect her throne, there's very little downtime for our heroes. It made for a quick-paced read that keeps the reader entranced until the last page.
In all this was a good farewell to the world and Caim in particular. I was satisfied by the conclusion, though that's not to say I would be averse to Sprunk writing short stories about Nimea and how Josey's reign goes on in the future however.
THE NORTHERN WASTES...
A land of death and shadow where only the strongest survive. Yet that is where Caim must go to follow the mystery at the heart of his life. Armed only with his knives and his companions, he plunges into a world of eternal night where the sun is never seen and every hand is turned against him.
Caim has buried his father's sword and found some measure of peace, but deep in the north an unfathomable power lies waiting. To succeed on this mission, Caim will have to do more than just survive. He must face the Shadow's Master.
With this novel, Jon Sprunk brings his action-packed trilogy to an epic conclusion.