Foreword Reviews

Wages of Death

Shadow for Hire

Clarion Rating: 4 out of 5

Wages of Death is an intense, gripping fantasy, full of big adventures and bigger questions.

In Peter Last’s fantasy novel Wages of Death, a teenage assassin faces off against deadly traps, bloodthirsty monsters, and his burgeoning conscience.

The Shadow—made up of Leopold, Midas, Daniel, and Raven—will steal anything and kill anyone for the right price. They’re the best at what they do, but until recently, they’ve never thought to question if what they do is right. As the Shadow travels on mission after mission, risking their lives for gold and each other, they also learn about themselves, the world, and their place in it.

The book is divided into four parts, each spotlighting a different assignment. Every mission is well paced and suspenseful, revealing unexpected twists as the team hurtles toward an action-packed resolution. These segments are connected by the characters’ personal experiences of love and discovery. Most members of the Shadow grew up too fast, but their youth is apparent in everyday moments: mutual teasing, awkward interactions, and occasional sullen fits. They develop in a natural way, their individual stories building upon previous events and memories until they are forced to make the most urgent, difficult decisions of their lives.

The main character in this story is Leopold, the Shadow’s youngest member. While his changing relationship with Raven, the group’s sole girl, is predictable, his quest to clear the fog of amnesia from his past and figure out his true identity is interesting. His frustration as he tries and fails to remember important details is palpable. Leopold is clever and creative, and his daring feats lead to some of the book’s most memorable scenes.

The book’s modern slang is out of place in its historical setting. Language sometimes repeats, and some scenes stretch on too long. Atheism is depicted as a selfish tool for manipulating compatriots. The narrative overemphasizes Leopold’s virtues, both through statements from others and in how all of the Shadow’s missions require his particular skills more than his teammates’, who often come off as sidekicks rather than equals.

The Shadow’s assignments take them to diverse locations, including an endless, monster-ridden swamp and a crumbling guard tower half-submerged in the ocean. The different settings, and the sharp detail with which they are described, add intrigue to a narrative already overflowing with excitement. While the book leaves several mysteries unsolved, Leopold makes great personal strides, resulting in a fulfilling conclusion that leaves enough material for future installments.

Wages of Death is an intense, gripping fantasy, full of big adventures and bigger questions.

Reviewed by Eileen Gonzalez

Disclosure: This article is not an endorsement, but a review. The author of this book provided free copies of the book and paid a small fee to have their book reviewed by a professional reviewer. Foreword Reviews and Clarion Reviews make no guarantee that the author will receive a positive review. Foreword Magazine, Inc. is disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

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