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The Conqueror's Shadow
Ari Marmell
Spectra, 430 pages

The Conqueror's Shadow
Ari Marmell
Ari Marmell was born in 1974 in New York. A year later, his family moved to Houston. He went to college at the University of Houston, beginning in the Psychology program, then changed his major to Creative Writing. Graduating in 1996, he married the next year and, in 2001, moved to Austin in mid-2001 so his wife George could attend graduate school while he continued to work as a freelance writer. His first published novel, Gehenna: The Final Night, a World of Darkness book, appeared on shelves in January of 2004.

Ari Marmell Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Gehenna: The Final Night

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Dominic Cilli

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I sometimes cringe when faced with having to read a book from a first time author. You really are never sure what you are going to get and, more times than not, the books end up as rather expensive kindling. Occasionally however, we get lucky and find something worthwhile. Such is the case with Ari Marmell's debut original novel The Conqueror's Shadow. It may not be the most original piece of fantasy literature ever written, but it is a rock-solid fantasy nonetheless, filled with darkness and humor. I think fans of Joe Abercrombie, Scott Lynch and Patrick Rothfuss will find Ari Marmell much to their liking.

The Conqueror's Shadow tells the story of Corvis Rebaine, Terror of the East and the most feared man in all of Imphallion. Corvis, after taking the city of Denathere and digging up something from far below the meeting hall, mysteriously disappears abandoning his army, his campaign and his chance at ruling all Imphallion. Flash forward the clock twenty years and Corvis Rebaine "Terror of the East" and "Scourge of Imphallion"... is married with children. Corvis no longer desires to rule. He wants nothing more than to live out a peaceful farmer's existence with his wife and children... or does he?

Corvis' true feeling aside, his peacefulness ends the day his daughter is kidnapped from the family farm. Furthermore, Corvis learns that a man named Audriss has raised an army much like he had twenty years earlier. Audriss has started his own campaign and taken up right where Corvis left off in the meeting hall in Denathere. So with an army at his doorstep and his family in danger, Corvis Rebaine dusts off the armor (literally) and sets off to stop Audriss and his army in order to ensure his family's future safety.

As I stated earlier, The Conqueror's Shadow won't win any awards for originality, but that doesn't necessarily mean this book isn't a worthwhile read or devoid of original ideas. My plot summary was a brief one. There are more than enough nuances and subplots going on to captivate the reader. Furthermore, there are a lot of other elements of great fantasy literature present in The Conqueror's Shadow. Ari Marmell has created a great character in Corvis Rebaine. He is a complicated fellow and like most really well written characters is neither all good nor all bad. To go along with Corvis, Marmell has created a cast of entertaining supporting characters. Corvis "recruits" all his old commanders to help him fight Audriss including Davro, a thirteen foot sarcastic ogre, who enjoys eating humans and Seilloah, the witch with a heart of gold, who also happens to enjoy the taste of humans. As you might imagine by that description, Marmell writes with a great sense of humor amidst all the dark imagery. I found some of the dialogue to be downright funny and I think readers will too. Marmell also throws in many nice little touches that I thought added a lot to the overall enjoyment of the story. He gives us a good dose of magic and spell casters, along with sentient weapons and a demon imprisoned within a necklace named Kandra whose interactions with Corvis never ceased to be amusing.

The story in The Conqueror's Shadow flowed really well. Readers will certainly want to keep those pages turning as Marmell does a great job of keeping his readers in suspense. The book also has a surprising amount of depth at a relatively short page count. Thanks in large part to Marmell beginning each chapter with a flashback passage that gives the reader insight into the characters and their history. All these elements and little touches combine to make The Conqueror's Shadow a really fun read and one that I think most fans of dark fantasy will enjoy. Considering, this is Ari Marmell's first novel, I think the future looks very promising for him. I for one look forward to reading his next effort.

Copyright © 2010 Dominic Cilli

When asked to write a third-person tag line for his reviews, Dominic Cilli farmed the work out to an actual 3rd person, his friend Neal, who in turn turned it over to a second person who then asked his third cousin to help out and this person whom Dom doesn't even know then wrote in 8th person Omniscient mode "Dom's breadth of knowledge in literature runs the gamut and is certainly not bounded by the Sci-Fi/Fantasy genre. One thing I can say with certainty is that of all the people I don't know who've ever recommended books to read, Dom's recommendations are the best.


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