Zacriah Trovirn is concerned with two things in life: hunting and dodging Petrer, the boy who broke his heart.
Heartbreak becomes a distant concern when Zacriah is taken to the Elven capital of Thessolina, where he is forced into King Dalior’s new legion of shapeshifters. But Zacriah isn’t a shapeshifter. In truth, he doesn't know what he is.
Zacriah joins forces with new friends and they soon find themselves embroiled in a clash between the three Elven continents. With war looming on the horizon, Zacriah must learn to use his latent power to fight and protect those he loves before they are destroyed.
Going into this book I was a little worried for a few reasons. First being I haven't read many fantasy books this year. I made a resolution to read more diverse books in 2017 and unfortunately fantasy is not as diverse as I would like it to be. Which is why I was excited to hear that Ben was writing a LGBTQ+ fantasy novel. Second, I haven't been able to get into, or really truly love, a OfTomes book. OfTomes Publishing is the publishing house that published Cloaked in Shadow, and Ben Alderson is the founder. You may know him from his YouTube channel youtube.com/benjaminoftomes. Because I had issues getting into the other books published under this company, I was just worried I would have the same issue with this one. I'm so happy that wasn't the case with Cloaked in Shadow.
I really enjoy the author's writing style. It's descriptive and really well done. He writes characters so well that you can't help but love or hate the characters you're reading about. There are many passages and even just sentences in the book where I highlighted just because I liked the way it sounds. I think Alderson has a great talent for not only really painting a scene but also making it so you are feeling the same emotions as the characters.
The characters are wonderful and I love them so much. Fantasy stories like this need great characters and I think Cloaked in Shadow has an amazing cast of characters. I really enjoy how sarcastic but also sweet Zacriah is. I had no problems loving him and rooting for him to come up victorious. He is a strong, brave character, but I like that he is also not afraid to be vulnerable. Guy characters, especially in fantasy novels, have this way about them where being vulnerable is seen as weak. But Zacriah has his heart on his sleeve. And I thought it was nice to see. I really loved Hadrian too, he is the first prince-y character I've read in a while where he doesn't need this cocky arrogance to be the love interest. Hadrian, although he can be witty and a bit of a smart ass, is incredibly kind and generous. He's a good guy and you can see why him and Zacriah fall for each other. Nyah is hilarious and I love her friendship with Zacriah. She kind of slams into his life and is so sweet and energetic. I really want more of her in the next stories because I'd love for her friendship with Zacriah to grow and evolve. You could tell they were still new friends, even with everything they had gone through, by the end of the book. I am excited to get to the point in their friendship where they know each other better than they know themselves. At first, I was feeling bad for Petrer, and then I disliked him, and now I am not sure how or what I am supposed to feel for him.
I did have a few issues with the book as a whole. One being with Zacriah and Petrer. I know that it is insinuated they had a relationship before the story starts, but because Petrer and Zacriah have an obvious disconnect right now, I would have liked to see more of why Zacriah and Petrer were together. It honestly felt to me like Petrer was pining after Zacriah and Zacriah was never interested. The way we know Petrer presently, I don't even know why Zacriah would be interested. But then we are told they had an exclusive thing, and because we never see that soft nice side to Petrer we don't know why Zacriah (who still cares for him, despite not being into him romantically) dated him. Another thing, although with clarification this con could become a pro, is I am not sure how this world feels about homosexuality or LGBTQ+ romances. Zacriah never seems worried or cautious about expressing himself, so I am thinking the world does not have those kinds of prejudices (kind of like Of Fire and Stars by Audrey Coulthurst, which was amazing), but if that is not the case, I would have liked to see more push back from the characters witnessing Zarcriah with either Petrer or Hadrianso the readers knew. [EDIT: Ben Alderson confirmed that the world is accepting of LGBTQ+ romance. I cannot explain how happy that makes me and I love the story even more now.] My final real issue is that I would like to have seen a little more world building. There was some, and I think what we get is well done so I have no doubt Alderson has it in him to write an amazing world. I just would have liked a little more. I am guessing that'll come in later books, since like most fantasy series, the first novel is to set the story up.
Overall, I highly recommend this book. If you want an amazing fantasy story with a well written LGBTQ+ romance, elemental magic, dragons, shapeshifters, and great characters I think this book is definitely for you. As I am writing this it's only $3 on Amazon. I highly recommend and think it's totally worth the money. I cannot explain how excited I am for the sequel. I hope we do not have to wait too long!!