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Groomed as an Assassin - an Editorial Review of "Shadow Runner"

Updated: Sep 2, 2023

“Shadow Runner” by KJ Fieler receives five stars and the “Highly Recommended” award of excellence from The Historical Fiction Company

“What’s that?” said the boy. He peered into the twilight, trying to pinpoint the figure he’d just seen. Low clouds rolled down the cobblestone street like behemoth ghosts, soundless and drifting.

“Ain’t nothin’.” The man clipped a wick and topped off the reservoir.

“There in the shadows. Pitch-black and hooded. Just popped into sight.”

“Light’s playin’ tricks on yer eyes.” The man lit the lamp, climbed down from the ladder, and moved on to the next.

“No, I saw somethin’. Looked like a person, it did. But the eyes was scary.”

From the very start, “Shadow Runner” sucks us in for a delightful mix of fantasy, historical fiction, and adventure. The book begins with a gripping first line and paragraph that effectively sets the tone for the rest of the story. We’re transported into a richly textured world full of intriguing characters and potent dilemmas. This enchanting tale is deeply engaging, while carrying a strong emotional resonance that will keep you hooked from the exciting start to the very last page.

In “Shadow Runner”, K.J. Fieler introduces us to our protagonist, Ada, born to aristocracy, intended to marry and never want for anything in life… except what she truly wants is her freedom. Yearning for adventure, she lives for her chess games with her Papa, and she loves hearing the family stories of her Grandmama’s adventures in America.

Her character is well-rounded, full of depth and complexity, relatable and charming, as she evolves from a sheltered aristocrat to a formidable assassin. Adequate attention is given to her psychological journey, and we get to experience it with her, with each supporting character also playing a unique and convincing role in Ada’s story. Interwoven in the fantasy and supernatural themes, we have a touching coming-of-age story.

As she transitions from a life of comfort and aristocracy to survival amidst a secret society of assassins, we witness her transformation into a strong, resilient, and morally complex protagonist. Her journey, colored by fascinating characters and a vibrant world, is a powerful exploration of freedom, duty, and personal ethics. The supporting characters are woven beautifully into the rest of the story and the vivid imagery that the author creates makes you feel as if you are there alongside Ada, every step of the way.

Ada wrinkled her nose at the mechanical mount inching across the lawn on stiff legs fitted with wheels, a rigor mortis pony on skates.

Unblinking onyx eyes set in rose gold stared at nothing in particular. A bit of copper showed warm brown on the muzzle where the bridle rubbed. A bronze body masked the gears and mechanical heart, and the saddle hid the door to a windup key.

Someone should polish your nose, Ada thought. I suppose they’re waiting for your real owner.

The vivid, colorful writing pulls us into the compelling storyline. Although Ada has always known she would be expected to marry an heir, she doesn’t want to lose her freedom. A ghostly visitor and a series of supernatural events may turn the tides for her, changing the trajectory of her life forever. There’s a found family element to her new situation, as they are setting her up for her new position in life.

But with it comes a darkness… Ada is adopted by a secret society, trained as an assassin, and is forced to abandon her previous ideals of how the world works. She’ll need to readjust her own moral compass as she is required to lie and steal. Her only other choice is to run away from the society, but that could come with serious consequences as well.

And as she comes of age, the former aristocrat is now a groomed assassin, a predator to the very nobility from which she was born. The narrative arc unfurls seamlessly, sweeping readers along on a thrilling journey packed with unexpected twists and turns.

There is a definite progression in the narrative that improves the reading experience, and the events are presented in a logical and consistent order. The constant documentation of Ada's journey and change gives the plot an air of veracity.

The supernatural elements will keep the reader guessing, wondering what’s truly happening and how it will all unfold. Throughout the fantasy elements, we also see a journey that questions norms and values, explores the idea and values of freedom, and dives into what it truly means to be human. We see themes of responsibility and humanity, as well.

The ground under Ada sunk to her knees. Something crunched as she shifted feet. Wet soil slurped around her boots, threatening to suck her down. The smell of rotting flesh slithered up her frame and into her nose. She looked at the ground. Splintered wood, a toothless skull, empty eyes, a mouth agape.

The writing will draw you in, keeping you turning each page to see what new mystery will be revealed. It is a stunning amalgamation of historical fiction, fantasy, and Victorian steampunk, making it a distinctive and thought-provoking read.

Editing and formatting are well done, professional, and free of mistakes that pull you out of the story. The narrative flows smoothly and is easy to digest. The structure, pacing, and overall presentation are impeccable, allowing you to immerse yourself fully in the plot and the world within the book.

The uniqueness of "Shadow Runner" lies in its innovative blend of genres and the originality of its storyline. The fusion of fantasy and historical fiction, paired with the steampunk vibe, results in an original, intriguing, and unforgettable read.

The ending is satisfying and complete, aligning perfectly with the overarching themes throughout the book, providing closure while also leaving room for us to imagine what might come next for Ada, and this colorful cast of characters.

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