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Lance McColgan
The Secrets of Shadowcrest

Adult; Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Horror; (Market)

The year is AD 1153. As England teeters on the brink of civil war, a faithful knight is sent by his king on a secret mission to the Island of Cabalia: a secluded land of unknown origin and fantastic magic. But when his errand goes awry, Lord William Steele must embark on an unexpected journey across the island, brushing shoulders with cutthroat mercenaries, conspiring kings, and legendary monsters. Forgotten histories and timeless truths must be grappled with in his attempt to discover the Secrets of Shadowcrest and survive to tell the tale.
Set against the turbulent political backdrop of 12th-century England, McColgan’s debut blends fantasy and history as it charts the surprising journey of William Steele, a trusted aide to King Henry II. William is assigned a critical mission to the mysterious and magically concealed land of Cabalia—“the Magic Island,” long hidden by a mist enchanted by “curious arts”—to secure a powerful artifact that could prove crucial in thwarting King Stephen’s claim to the throne. Through intricate world-building, McColgan brings the mystical land and all its beasts and secrets to life while anchoring the story in WIlliam’s own ambitions and the greater struggle for the English crown.

What seems like a strange but straightforward mission takes a sharp turn into chaos when a man spontaneously combusts, in broad daylight, with William the prime suspect behind what’s called a case of manslaughter, and soon hunted by the frustrated inquisitor, Telnis Raiko. William forges alliances with the mischievous Zala Zikennig, a mercenary mage with prowess in fire magic and Brinwin Zikennig, an alchemist linked with the fugitive group Azkalah, whom Telnis has been pursuing for a decade. As McColgan evokes rich politics and culture, The Secrets of Shadowcrest offers much classic adventure-fantasy storytelling, as the trio relies on their skills and the technology developed by the Essari people. Guided by William's keen memory, Brinwin's meticulous maps, and Zala's mystical abilities, they face formidable challenges, including the forces of House Shadowcrest and the mysterious Shadowed One.

In his quest for the artifact, William discovers a profound truth, built with conviction via McColgans emotive storytelling: amidst serving others, he must also remember to serve himself. McColgan deftly employs the characters' travels to delve into their backstories and to unveil the mystical land of Cabalia. Throughout, McColgan employs the narrative form itself to deliver unexpected twists that take readers by surprise.This series starter distinguishes itself with its exploration of themes ranging from politics and espionage to elements of historical fiction and romance.

Takeaway: Stellar fantasy debut, blending English history with magic.

Comparable Titles: James Wilde’s Time of the Wolf, Christopher Buehlman’s Between Two Fires.

Production grades
Cover: A-
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: A
Marketing copy: A

Pacific Book Award

Lance McColgan's debut novel, The Secrets of Shadowcrest, was selected as the winner of the 2024 Pacific Book Award for Best Fantasy. The results of the contest were announced on the Pacific Book Review's website, which can be found in the link below.