First person is one of those things that seems really easy to write (after all, we all think in first person, and using “I” and “me” is all very natural to us) but in reality it is much more difficult to do well. As well as having to deal with issues such as a limited perspective, to me the real thing that first person does (to make it all difficult) is reveal a very boring and lackluster main character. Narrating from third can help hide this, but when a reader can see directly into the mind of the main character, everything is visible.
That train of thought, plus the fact that first person seems more the domain of urban fantasy than more epic fantasy, got me interested – I like first person a lot, but for me it takes a character with real spark to pull it off well. The narrator of Shadow Prowler, Shadow Harold is a very strong personality, full of vibrancy and life – not to mention snark. He has his own little quirks, such as his occasional tendency to refer to himself in third person, and they help him leap from the page and make him a very attention-grabbing and entertaining narrator. Shadow Harold’s voice was the real charm of Shadow Prowler, and it really makes it stand out from other works because of it.
Shadow Prowler does contain a lot of the stock tropes and, yes, cliches of epic fantasy but that is not a bad thing. Others might disagree, but I see tropes/cliches as being a bit like magic: on their own they are neither good nor bad – it just all depends on the person using it. And besides, these things are used so often because they very often work. Sometimes it plays tropes straight, other times Shadow Prowler subverts/averts them. And fortunately, this first book of the trilogy is not so much a tale of questing (or at least jumping straight into the quest one has been charged with) but about letting Shadow Harold do what he does best: thieving, and getting in trouble for it. Listening to Shadow Harold’s narration snarking away as he finds himself in trouble yet again is definitely a highlight of the whole story.
Overall Shadow Prowler was an enjoyable adult fantasy story made even more so by the strong personality and humourous first-person narration of the main character. The first in a trilogy, I will most definitely be waiting for parts two and three, however long it may take.