Swordplay, magic, intrigue and friendships stronger than iron: the first volume in the new swashbuckling fantasy series by the bestselling author of The Greatcoats .

Damelas Shademantaigne picked a poor night to flee a judicial duel.

He has precious little hope of escaping the wrath of the Vixen, the most feared duellist in the entire city, until he stumbles through the stage doors of the magnificent Operato Belleza and tricks his way into the company of actors. An archaic law provides a temporary respite from his troubles - until one night a ghostly voice in his head causes Damelas to fumble his lines, inadvertently blurting out a dreadful truth: the city's most legendary hero may actually be a traitor and a brutal murderer.

With only the help of his boisterous and lusty friend Bereto, a beautiful assassin whose target may well be Damelas himself, and a company of misfit actors who'd just as soon see him dead, this failed son of two Greatcoats must somehow find within himself the courage to dig up long-buried truths before a ruthless band of bravos known as the Iron Orchids come for his head.

Oh, and there's still that matter of the Vixen waiting to duel him . . .


Play of Shadows is a new book set in the world of the Greatcoats and tells the tale of Damelas Chardemontaigne, a cowardly jobbing actor who finds himself at the centre of a plot to destabilise the country.

Initially, running like a fantasy version of Withnail and I, you half expect Danny to be there with his infamous Camberwell Carrot. However, once you get past a certain point, the book returns to De Castells familiar beats.

The book itself is a fantastic romp revolving around the power of stories and how history is written by the victors.

At the beginning of the story, we meet Damelas, who fearing for his life after running away from a duel with the infamous Vixen, inserts himself into a local acting troupe, invoking their protection so that he doesn’t have to take part.

All this because he is the grandson of two famous Greatcoats and happens to be named after his ancestor, who happened to be the very first Greatcoat. Unfortunately for Damelas, he is totally not up to the job of filling these massive boots.

The book itself is the very familiar formula that De Castell generally writes with, and if you are familiar with De Castell’s books the very heart of the story will not come as much of a surprise as it is filled with the usually well realised, larger than life characters, fantastic plotting and the ability to make the reader laugh or cry on a whim. However, what De Castell does differently in this book is to give a very different feel to this book, revolving the tale around a hapless hero and primarily basing it on theatre and pantomime, rather than the stock standard swashbuckling fare that is part and parcel of the other books.

However, fans will not be disappointed by a lack of well-choreographed fight scenes as Mr De Castell peppers plenty throughout the book.

As usual, there is plenty of humour in the book as well as the inklings of dark and De Castell balances the two brilliantly.

At times, the book has an almost episodic feel to it, and it reminds the reader of the old classic adventure serials or classic fiction such as Defoe and Dumas, but also used in more modern times by people like Wes Anderson.

And just to mention that there is a bonus for fans of the series as there is a welcome cameo at the end to give that warm fuzzy feeling.

In conclusion, I don’t know how to conclude this review, but I will finish by saying ‘Play of Shadows is feckin fantastic!’





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