Editor: Kate Elliott
Publisher: Orbit • 657 pages • £12.99
If Nigella ever decided to write fantasy instead of cook on the telly, this would be it. Shadow Gate is the plump and mouthwatering second dish in the seven-course Crossroads Saga. Its ingredients may seem a bit samey at first but they’re prepared with such love and gusto, you won’t be able to resist for long.
Instead of a chewy recap of first instalment Spirit Gate, author Kate Elliott sets her table with a flourish: “Marit was pretty sure she had been murdered”. Marit is (or was) a reeve - one of a “police force” that rides giant eagles in the land of The Hundred, at the bidding of spiritual lawgivers the decades-lost Guardians. Marit is convinced the unkillable Guardians are returning – and that she’s been reincarnated as one of them.
More characters and factions are soon tossed into the mix: those who follow The Merciful One. Those who follow The Merciless One (generous female sex-worshippers – time to get religion!). Slaves. Demons. Outlander warriors. And all the while, the evil Lord Radas – could he be a corrupted Guardian, out for vengeance instead
of justice? – scours the land with his brutal militia.
There’s a more deliberate focus on the powerful women of the tale this time around – although not in a red-hot, voluptuous Boris Vallejo kinda way. Expect more of a demure sackcloth-ripper in which the girls take charge, get sex, get brutalised, get mad and get even.
This is every bit as full of texture and flavour as Spirit Gate, sure to leave you begging for more – even after 650-odd pages. Just make sure you’re hungry enough to eat a horse (sorry, giant eagle).