Under The Shadows of Swords is a fantasy novel in the vein of the Arabian Nights or perhaps Sinbad, although much more through the lens darkly. The author, Val Gunn, has crafted a detailed world in Mir'ja, and one must imagine that this is a novel that will inspire a series.
Ciris Sarn leads a cursed life, which is fitting for the world's most famous assassin. He struggles to break free from a cloudy web of plotting that has been his master. When the ancient tombs know as, The Books of Promise, are discovered it is a turn of events that could aid in his freedom or lead his path in doom.
Gunn increases the tension but adding two more points of view. Marin Altair is the widow of a heroic man that Sarn had recently killed. She swears to take his life and as the Magical books draw them into the circle of treachery that is not only after the power of the tomes, but also the control of Mir'aj.
Munif comes into the adventure as a complex character. He is a former drug addict whose past behavior haunts him almost as much as his need to return to those times. Soon he is as enmeshed as the others as the politics turn deadly with betrayals and surprises.
Throughout the majority of the story these three character travel as loners finding sparse allies but then losing them just as quickly. Soon however, the quest for the last Book of Promise draws these individual threads into one rope and their paths mingle as the mythical mission becomes their reality.
The world of Mir'ja is a place where magic and monsters are as real as taxes. Some of the creatures these heroes encounter are detailed and fierce and are things best left avoided. The use of magic is a greater mystery. Some things are hinted at while other effects explode into plot changing twists.
If a negative factor had to be tossed into the ring, it might be that these fabulous beasts are not explored enough. In one scene a complex and quite frightening creature is introduced, but the heroes simply hide and let it go on killing the local innocents. Another thing that could bother the reader, is the fact that even though the book boasts to be following the exploits of Ciris Sarn, as soon as we start to know the assassin, the book sweeps us into the other two characters and, at first, returns to the main character only briefly. However, since these characters are interesting in their own right, most readers should be able to overlook this issue.
Under The Shadows of Swords is an inventive book and Gunn's world easily sweeps you into its complex realm. Magic and monsters mix with subterfuge to weave an enjoyable tale that will keep people turning pages. Most readers will certainly hope that we will get to see more books about Ciris Sarn and set in the world of Mir'ja