Shadow Prowler – Alexey Pehov

What a novel!  This is the most entertaining piece of SFF comedy writing I’ve seen since The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams.  Alexey Pehov had me absolutely laughing out loud for page after page.  He cleverly poked fun at the genre by including every cliche built up over the past 70 years.  I might even go so far as to say that NBC should consider a Shadow Prowler sitcom for a midsea….


What the..?


[What follows is a complete fabrication.  There is no Cheryl.  She is a figment of my imagination.  Furthermore the purpose of this review is to have fun with reviewing a book I really did not like.  It should by no means be viewed as an attack on Tor Books who I think, for the most part, does a tremendous job.  They're the industry leader for a reason.  Any failure here is with the material itself, not with the work done by the publisher to bring it to market.  Obviously, Tor Books has never contacted me about a review I was writing, have written, or will write in the future.]

Me: Yes, Cheryl?

Cheryl: Mr. Landon, Tor is on the line…

Me: Ok, I’ll pick it up.  This is Justin.

Tor: Mr. Landon, it’s come to our attention that you’re writing a review of Shadow Prowler.

Me: I’m actually writing it as we speak, how did you know?

Tor: We’re Tor.

Me: Oh… right.

Tor: It seems you think Shadow Prowler is a comedy.

Me: It had occurred to me.

Tor: It’s not.

Me: You mean Pehov was being serious?

Tor: Yes.

Me: Are you fucking with me?

Tor: We’d appreciate it if you’d take this a bit more seriously, Mr. Landon.

Me: You’ve read this thing right?

Tor: Not me exactly.  It sold millions of copies in Russia.

Me: We’ve certainly seen eye to eye with them in the past.

Tor: Are you being droll?

Me: Who me? Come on, you’re Tor.  You’re the Politburo of fantasy.

Tor: You’re being droll.

Me: Maybe a little.

Tor: In any case, I’ve been asked to see if I can help you understand Pehov’s vision a little more clearly.

Me: Vision?  This is going to take some adjustment of perspective.  I have a hard time figuring out how ‘vision’ can include pages of exposition every time a new term is mentioned.  Or how using every fantasy trope possible is ‘subversion of tropes’.  It’s only subversion if you use it to set up expectations and then knock them down.

Tor: The elves have fangs, Mr. Landon, and they’re swarthy.  Fangs!

Me: …….

Tor: You clearly weren’t able to keep up with Pehov’s wonderful prose.

Me: Good Lord man!  The first person narrator frequently refers to himself in the third person.  The narrative switches tense for no clear reason!  And this is just the low hanging fruit!  I’m not even going into my notes here! (!!!!)  See, I thought this was comedy.  You know, like Deadpool comics where he’s such a nutbar he thinks he’s got people reading about his exploits.  But now you’re telling me this is a serious novel…

Tor: There are moments of levity along with heart wrenching emot…

Me: Harold calls his home a “SECRET LAIR!”  I was laughing on every page until the last 50.  I’m not going to tell you the last 50 pages weren’t good.  I rather enjoyed them although there isn’t anything even remotely resembling an ‘end point’.  It’s just the first 350 were a constant stream of consciousness that provided absolutely no movement to the plot.  I felt like I was sitting on the toilet with a pendulous turd just waiting to fall into the bowl, but no matter how much I wiggled it just wouldn’t let go!  You can imagine what a relief those last 50 pages were, can’t you?

Tor: I’m speechless.

Me:  Good.  I’m not done.  When I thought Pehov was being a smart ass like Lev Grossman’s The Magician I got quite a kick out of it in a ‘I’m not going to pay attention to this ridiculous section on nothing because Pehov is just making a point that epic fantasy is full of crap’ way.  But it’s not.  I was supposed to be worried about the characters, fearing impending doom.  Emphasis on supposed to.

Tor: There may be some translation issu…

Me: Oh probably, but Andrew Bromfield is a pretty widely recognized translator.  I find it hard to believe that he decided that ‘The Nameless One’ was a particularly choice name for the villain or that Harold should spend an entire chapter buying weapons and magic items from a dwarf shopkeeper.  Not to mention discussing them all in fantastic detail.  Did I mention that there’s another chapter where Harold is introduced to every member of the 15 members of his adventuring party?  I don’t mean, hey-how-you-doing. I mean full biographies on all 15.

Tor: *pursed lips* I never.  Is there anything you liked about this book, Mr. Landon?

Me: I’m so glad you asked.  The goblin jester – Kli-Kli – is absolutely brilliant.  He’s like a mash-up of Tasslehoff Burrfoot from The Dragonlance Chronicles and the Fool from The Farseer Trilogy.  Frankly, he’s almost worth the price of admission.

Tor: Well, see, there we are… something to build off of.

Me: Oh, yes.  If I were you I’d absolutely build off him.  In fact, I’d write an entire series with him as the protagonist.  As far as I’m concerned Pehov has a real talent for writing comedy.  Maybe you should think about changing your marketing strategy, do a few re-writes, make Harold the straight man…

Tor: *fuming*

Me: Look, it was just a suggestion.  So, I’ll be looking for the review copy of the sequel Shadow Chaser in my mailbox then, ok?

Tor: ……

Me: No? Uh… right.  Bye now.

[Again, this was merely for fun.  I admit wholeheartedly that it is snarky and a little mean.  But I hope it made someone laugh.]

Justin Landon

Justin Landon is the Overlord of Staffer's Book Review. When he's not writing things of dubious value to the world, he's at the gym or being a dad. You can follow him on a multitude of social media, which is strongly suggested lest you miss out on vital information that could someday save your life.

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  • Aidan Moher October 27, 2011 at 4:53 pm

    Wow. Perfect.

  • Bryce L. October 27, 2011 at 4:58 pm

    Love it. You may have just convinced me to actually read it though. Whoops. :D

  • Kathryn October 27, 2011 at 4:59 pm

    I paid £2 for this. I think I want to read it more now.

  • Stefan Fergus October 27, 2011 at 8:19 pm

    I think I want to read about Kli-Kli, now.

  • Jared October 28, 2011 at 8:37 am

    I love this so very much.

  • leanoir October 28, 2011 at 11:51 am

    I actually have to send you a copy of SHADOW CHASER now, you know. And the final book, SHADOW BLIZZARD. Because this was hilarious, haha.

  • Justin October 28, 2011 at 12:35 pm


    Forward around the office funny or 'oh God this is funny, but I can't laugh out loud cause the editor is down the hall'?

    Thanks for being a good sport!

  • leanoir October 28, 2011 at 5:15 pm

    I probably won't share it with the editor, but hey, I count three people in the comment thread who might read the book now, so that's worth something :-)

    I really will send you book two if you have any interest in doing another post like this!

  • Stefan October 29, 2011 at 3:43 pm

    Yep, you're right on target here. In my review, I'd suggested a drinking game – every time Pehov uses a fantasy cliche, you do a shot, and you'd be under the table by chapter two or three.

    Great review!

  • redhead October 29, 2011 at 10:30 pm

    I just snorted tea out my nose. boiling hot tea.

    but it was worth it, that was hilarious! not sure if I'll be reading the book, but I'll certainly be hoping for more reviews in this style!

  • Paul Weimer February 7, 2012 at 11:57 am

    I saw that the Kindle version of the book is on sale today, Justin.

    I decided not to buy it. You read it for me. :)

  • A Question Of ITIL February 25, 2012 at 6:35 am

    Great writer!
    Did you know, Tor has an e-book sale and Shadow Prowler is available for $2.99!
    Alexey Pehov e-book sale

  • Shadow Prowler « AQ's Reviews December 13, 2012 at 1:08 pm

    [...] of which, Justin (on Goodreads and the blogger of Staffer’s Book Review) wrote this “Review” after giving this book one star. I agree with most of his complaints about the novel. Go ahead and [...]

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