The Grey Riders who 'serve the holy way' in Helm of Shadows live on a world called Damora in a star system nearly twenty light years from Earth. It's much like Earth, but it has a number of planets aligned against it, so its enemies are legion and its inhabitants are ruled by prophecy. They use gates that allow them to travel between worlds and regularly confront Daemons who consider Damora their playground.
Against this backdrop these warriors journey south and east on winged steeds that carry their Viking-like heroes to lofty heights and purposes to quench the fires of evil, embarking on a quest for a relic whose powers will change the world even as they confront the dark forces that twist their own hearts.
That's the basic plot of the third (concluding) book in a multi-faceted series, but readers expecting a linear progression of events will be happy to learn that each series title in fact expands upon its predecessors and adds further information about the past, present and future lives of Dar Cabot's family as it wraps its cloak of fantasy around an atmosphere of mystery and intrigue.
Helm of Shadows provides a number of maps to help clarify Damora's geography, uses a rhyme about the Riders and their purpose to introduce them to newcomers to the series, and employs the gaming style of Dungeons and Dragons in book form to bring a successful role-playing formula to new life. Although Helm of Shadows stands well on its own for newcomers to the series, it does represent the third (and final) book in the trilogy, and so is especially recommended for prior fans who will appreciate the neat wrap-up of events and smooth answers to many questions about an ongoing evil and a family's connections to the threat.
Perhaps this is the greatest strength of Helm of Shadows, which sees the series' complex, evolving theme to satisfying fruition. Badzey takes the time, even in his concluding novel, to assure that readers enjoy that same sense of place and time that was crafted in his prior books: "Eric gave the air a long, careful sniff. He detected prairie grass, heather, oakwood, hartberry and fern... some moss and fungus as well. There was something else... something musty and animal-like... it reminded him of a dog."
Dangerous shamen, elven senses, and magical potions that pack protection (and a punch) when consumed ("Holy saints," he coughed after the last. "Peppery, orange, chocolate, salty, lemony and minty, one after the other... I bet Melinor makes those flavors just to laugh at people after they drink them."): by steeping the senses in the flavors, colors, sights and sounds of Damora, Badzey assures that this journey and its consequences are impressively vivid.
Most fantasy sagas (especially multi-volume productions) hold common denominators and attractions: missions, prophecies, extraordinary adversaries, and dangerous encounters that challenge and change hearts and minds. All of these components are central devices of the more successful works.
The best of them, however, create living, breathing protagonists who function so smoothly in their worlds and roles that readers are drawn by both setting and challenge and encouraged to not just care about characters and events, but to envision themselves facing such obstacles with the powers of purpose and choice at their fingertips. And fantasies which add subliminal connections to familiar ideas (whether it be religious, psychological or social) truly stand out from the norm. Such was the case with C.S. Lewis in his Christian-based Narnia fantasy series, and many of these same elements and approaches are intrinsic to Helm of Shadows and its predecessors.
Newcomers who hold a particular affinity for fantasy role playing and complex, action-packed stories from Tolkien to Brooks will be delighted with this winning trilogy which is solid, engrossing, and compelling to the end.
Helm of Shadows is a work of fantasy fiction penned by author P. G. Badzey and forms the third novel of The Grey Riders series. Following the tale on from Whitehorse Peak and Eye of Truth, we now find the Grey Riders moving on towards the east after clearing Buck Bydency’s name. As they seek guidance on the prophecy which threatens an ultimate war between Light and Dark in the future, Dar Cabot and his friends sense the evil which follows them and lurks at every turn. The titular Helm of Shadows is a key piece in the puzzle, and they must find it before the wicked Margoth does - they must stop her plans for ultimate conquest.
Author P. G. Badzey returns with an even bigger and better addition to the Grey Riders series, this time expanding the world yet further to unveil more dark and dangerous fantasy delights. The character of Dar Cabot has grown considerably over the span of the novels, now a true leader and wrought by the fire of the trials he’s gone through so far. There’s something Western-esque in his fantasy troupe of riders, searching for good old-fashioned justice and sticking together despite the magical challenges of the forest and far-flung locations they find. Badzey’s descriptions are lifelike, often terrifying when the darkness comes calling, but always well drawn and well played out. Overall, Helm of Shadows is an excellent addition that once again lifts the series to new heights: a highly recommended read for fantasy fans everywhere.