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The Conqueror's Shadow (Corvis Rebaine #1)

3.72  ·  Rating details ·  962 Ratings  ·  73 Reviews
With The Conqueror’s Shadow, Ari Marmell brings a welcome seasoning of wit to the genre, proving that dark fantasy can address the enduring questions of good and evil and still retain a sense of humor. Playful yet intense, sharply sarcastic yet deeply sincere, The Conqueror’s Shadow announces the appearance of a unique talent—and an antihero like no other.

They called him t
Hardcover, 448 pages
Published February 23rd 2010 by Spectra (first published January 1st 2010)
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Rating details
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Oct 16, 2011 rated it did not like it
Shelves: dnf
(Re-posted from

So like many, many others I read Mieville's Kraken. I don't have any thoughts on that one that others (many, many others) have not posted, so I don't think I'll add another review to the teeming pile. Let's just say that overall I enjoyed it but upon completion my brain felt like it had run a marathon. I decided to read something light and easy to recover.

And The Conqueror's Shadow seemed like it would fit that bill. Except that I barely made it
Jan 29, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy, read-in-2011
This is not your bedtime standard fantasy. The hero, if you can call him that, is Corvis Rebaine, a middling magician and ferocious fighter, who at the outset of this bloody and fierce novel leads an army into Denathere, an ancient city in the kingdom of Imphallon. He commands the services of a magical axe, a cannibalistic witch, a murdering group of orgres, and a demon, and who at the beginning of the novel brutally murders hundreds, all to quell the populous, solely to find and secure a magica ...more
Simcha Lazarus
Apr 15, 2010 rated it really liked it
I really enjoy fantasy books that play around with the classical elements of fantasy while adding unique twists, and this is what really drew me to read The Conqueror’s Shadow.
While it included many characteristics that you would expect to find in standard fantasy, such as witches, ogres, magical weapons and enchanted forests, it is unusual in that it tells the story from the perspective of a retired villain, one who has exchanged his ambitions of rulership for a quiet family life.

In the book’s
Blodeuedd Finland
Jan 09, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
My thoughts:

I liked it, a lot. There was something light over the whole book, even in the darkness. Corvis is not someone you should like, but how could I not like him. At the beginning of the book he does his name credit, he is not a nice person, quite the opposite. The he disappears and marries, haves children, only to see the world break again. And again he shows that he truly is The Terror of The East. But sometimes you just have to love the evil guy, because at least this time he wants to p
Jason M Waltz
Aug 20, 2016 rated it really liked it
know what? I just decided to give this 4 stars. was going to be 3. last half sold me. literally, from where I posted my reading update (page 242) on, the novel bettered itself big-time. Corvis really isn't meant to be liked, but he can be understood. that doesn't start to happen till at least a quarter way in, so I understand those readers who toss the book claiming they don't buy him, can't suspend belief. it takes some time, but I think Marmell pulls it off. he also provided some cool magic an ...more
DNF at page 127.

So I keep running into this problem. I start a new book, and it's not badly written, and the premise is interesting enough, but as I read I gradually lose momentum until I finally realize: I don't care. Even if the writing is okay (and this book, while not spectacular, is better written than probably 90% of the books I pick up and then put back down again), there is nothing about the characters or story that make me say, "Wow, I really need to know what happens next!" Reading bec
Aug 09, 2010 rated it liked it
Ari Marmell has been writing freelance for years, including short stories, co-authored shared-world fiction, and RPG manuals for Wizards of the Coast. THE CONQUEROR'S SHADOW is his first solo novel, and he attempts to shake things up, with a twist on the standard sword and sorcery.

Corvis Rebaine is happily married to a loving and clever wife, Tyannon. He's got two rascally kids. He's living a simple life among small-town villagers. Everything's all peachy keen.

But his sordid past catches up to
Marmell is best known for RPG manuals and related novels (like for Magic: The Gathering) and this is his first original novel. It’s an action fantasy on the sword and sorcery side of the spectrum and it has many traditional elements (ogres, gnomes, named magical swords, demon-infused pendants) without totally feeling like a retread. Sometimes Marmell avoids cliché just by making fun, like Corvis’ reaction when he puts on his old armor for the first time in 17 years: the armor he used to think wa ...more
Jul 30, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is one of those books that's been sitting in the pile for a while at Hobbit Towers. I’ve not been avoiding it, just haven’t managed to get to it. Whilst it was lurking there, Youngest Hobbit looked at the cover of this one (portraying a huge axe), and says to me, “Dad, some of the books you read have great covers!”

The cover actually does sum this one up fairly well – a large, no, LARGE, axe with strange symbols on it, outlined in red – could be blood, could be something else. You know that
Mar 10, 2010 rated it it was ok
I picked it up based on the cool cover model, and was pleasantly surprised to find the summary of the novel hit all sorts of guilty pleasures for me: Pretty Evil guy conquers half the world, inexplicibly disappears, then ends up living the anonymous happy life married to his hostage in PoDunk Village. Then more troubles come and he must re-recruit his former Semi-Evil comrades to defeat this even greater, more evil threat!

So, I luv me some villains-turned-heroes. The book started out promising,
Practical Mike
Mar 16, 2014 rated it liked it
This one is not quite a three star, but simply better than a two. The writing is pretty decent. The premise of the book is flawed. Now the author's job is to get me to suspend belief and buy into that premise. I mean this is a fantasy novel so that suspension of belief is mandatory... and I've been able to do it before. Just not here. Why? (Some might call what comes next spoilers, but since most of what is coming, is actually in the description of the book on the inside leaf, I'm going to go ah ...more
Joe Aguiar
Apr 14, 2013 rated it really liked it
The story starts out with the cruel conquerer Corvis Rebaine laying siege to yet another city in his bloody quest to rule all the land. But, when his plans go awry, he takes a young woman hostage and then the so-called 'Terror Of The East' disappears without a trace. 17 years later we find the vile Rebaine has not only married his fair hostage but, has two children and lives peacefully with his family in a secluded cottage. A changed man. But, when his humble and happy new life is shattered by t ...more
Jul 08, 2014 rated it it was ok

I read another book(The Goblin Corps) by the same author, and decided to give this one a try. While, the plot is solid from beginning to finish, it was hard for me to really enjoy this book. The main character Corvis, is one I felt like I really wanted to like but, I couldn't. Former evil Dark Lordship aside, I didn't find Corvis interesting in the slightest. The moments where his not fighting against his enemies, he spends alot of time arguing with his demonic "ally" or debating useless banter
Apr 11, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: recommended
This is a new take on an old genre. Its well written with just the right balance of back story character development and action. A real page turner which I found totally addictive from the first too last page. Although still an excellent book I must confess I found the ending slightly disappointing.

I always find reviews difficult to write as I don't want too spoil the book for a new reader. The real stand out lines, amazing action scenes to recall them here will rob you of the treat of reading
Jan 31, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2012-reads
What a rollicking good read! This book has it all...great battle scenes; the fate of the world in the balance; wise crackin' tough guys; wicked witches; ugly, brutish trolls; snarky demons...

Sure, it's a story we've read/seen before--baddest of the bad guys retires, reforms (at least sorta), and has to come out of retirement to stop a new bad guy.

This telling of that familiar tale is done with panache and a clever trick or three to shake things up. Well done, and more than primes the pump for r
Dec 21, 2016 rated it liked it
Tak toto bolo mierne sklamanie. Dojmy rozpačité, hrdina-nehrdina nezaujal, vôbec nemám chuť čítať jeho príbeh ďalej. Možno som knihu čítala v nesprávny čas, ale za mňa len taký priemer, tri hviezdičky za to, že je to na literárnej úrovni celkom slušnej.
Apr 26, 2013 rated it really liked it
Reposting an old review from my blog here, from when I read it back in 2010.

I grew up on Dungeons and Dragons. Pool of Radiance was the first PC game I owned, and Dragons of Autumn Twilight was one of the first novels I ever remember reading. The Conqueror’s Shadow clearly draws inspiration from D&D fiction – but twists it into a darker, grittier direction. I’ve seen a lot of other excellent dark fantasy lately, but none of it has ever so closely resembled a traditional D&D story. Make
Oct 28, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: wars-and-thrones
Driving action and crisp, believable dialog among a sinister cast of characters make The Conqueror's Shadow a fantastic story, but it's built on somewhat shaky premises.

The reader gets the backstory of the main character, lapsed conquering warlord Corvis Rebaine, in an indigestible lump that never really goes down easier despite the many flashback scenes that follow. Corvis conquered much of the nation of Imphallion with an atrocious army, but abruptly cut and ran when his quest for a sorcerer's
Sep 23, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: spec-fic
C2010. FWFTB: Imphallion, axe, warlord, Terror, ogre. Yes! At last a five star read. I was beginning to think that I wasn't ever going to thoroughly enjoy a book during the latter part of this year. The humorous dialogue between the bouts of some really awful imagery lifted this novel above the run-of-the mill grimdark spec fic. It is a difficult thing – written humour – but, not only is it sustained throughout the book, it is character apt and seems so effortless. Well done, Mr Marmell.The book ...more
Matt Bradley
Feb 24, 2011 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dec 20, 2014 rated it really liked it
Corvis Rebaine once almost had it all: the dreaded warlord who launched a campaign against Imphallion and took half the country with no contest. That was seventeen years ago. With victory on his doorstep, he left it all behind and settled down. But the problems that drove him to war seventeen years earlier weren't solved, and someone else has decided to pick up where he left off. Now, for the sake of his family, Corvis finds himself once again putting on the costume of the Terror of the East and ...more
Dec 07, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Roman terriblement efficace, bien que camouflé sous une couverture plus que bof.

Le livre commence étonnamment là où beaucoup de livre de fantasy finissent : lors de la défaite finale d'un odieux chef de guerre, connu sous le nom de Corvis Rebaine, la terreur de l'Est.

C'est pourtant bien l'histoire de Corvis que l'on va nous conter. Après sa défaite, Corvis a fui et s'est fondu dans l'anonymat d'un petit village où il vit avec sa femme et ses deux enfants. Ayant renoncé à son passé et remisé ses
James Keenan
May 23, 2012 rated it liked it
A simple idea which takes the trope of retired hero back for one more campaign, (a device that is done to death in most forms of media) and applies it to a Villain. It manages to work because the author doesn't shy away from actually having the villians still do bad things regardless of any good intentions. This means that the main character will sacrifice bystanders to his demon jewelry, his assistant witch will discuss Human Flesh recipes with his sidekick Ogre and his idea of mercy is killing ...more
Jan 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The Conqueror's Shadow is nearly perfect. This novel features a heady mix of action and black humor, plus a lot of twists and turns you really won't see coming, and a truly over the top ending. I mentioned to a friend that thematically this book has a small resemblance to The Name of the Wind (and yes Patrick Rothfuss's book did appear a few years before Ari Marmell's) but I would also contend they are two different kettles of fish. In fact in the final analysis I'd say this book has a lot more ...more
Beryll Brackhaus
Aug 11, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: modern-fantasy
Let’s start with the most important things: This is NOT a dark fantasy novel. Corvis Rebaine is NOT an anti-hero. He is a reformed villain.

Now on to the actual review.

First up, plot. It’s pretty good actually. No huge holes in the logic. Some surprising twists and turns. A satisfying ending where everyone gets what they deserve.

The way flashback moments are used to convey background information or develop character history are sometimes pretty well done, sometimes a bit pointless.

The characters
Clay Kallam
Jan 28, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: sf-fantasy
Ari Marmell’s “The Conqueror’s Shadow” (Ballantine, $26, 432 pages) has a lot going for it, but it still didn’t leave me completely satisfied. It’s a bloody, violent fantasy set in the typical pre-industrial, magical world with ogres, gnomes, demons and conquering warlords.

Marmell, however, spices it up with plenty of wit, and though sometimes the humor is a bit forced, it’s a welcome change of pace from the unrelenting blood and spewing internal organs of many other such novels. (I always wonde
Nov 14, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fantasy, forest-green
I absolutely loved the concept behind this book. A ruthless conqueror redeemed by the power of love? Be still my heart. The author did an incredible job of balancing Corvis’ devotion to his family with the inner warlord that will always be a part of him. I really liked Corvis despite (or maybe because of) his moral ambiguity, but I also loved the secondary characters. Khanda was a particular favorite, as was Davro. Each secondary character had a distinct personality, and I really loved getting t ...more
Apr 28, 2010 rated it liked it
It was very difficult to even like the protagonist in this book. As a Warlord, he was cruel, ruthless, and single-minded, committing great atrocities. He was very much the "ends justify the means" man. The fact that he had married and was the doting father of a couple of cute children provided what little there was to like about the man. That and the fact that he did keep his word.

There are magical weapons (demon-forged) and power amulets that are bound demons, the binding of which required huma
This was a fun read! Marmell's background in really traditional RPGs definitely shows in the set dressing (the gods have a D&D flavor, and seriously, people speak a language called Human?), but the main characters are solid and interesting.

I would have liked to have Tyannon function as more of a real character and less of an off-screen motivation, symbol of All That Is Good And Wholesome about Rebaine's second life, but it didn't grate on me too consistently. It helped that there were a few
May 06, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2012
Can't quite bring myself to give this one 3 stars. It's not bad; it's fast-paced, exciting reading that draws you in and zips by (good airplane reading). But it doesn't do anything more: all the characters are paper thin, with actually zero effort devoted to exploring the motivations of the female characters in particular. The story gestures at some interesting questions but ultimately prefers to go the way of monsters and explosions rather than explore them. And finally, the way violence is tre ...more
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Ari Marmell was born in New York, moved to Houston when he was a year old, moved to Austin when he was 27, but has spent most of his life living in other worlds through a combination of writing and roleplaying games. He has been writing more or less constantly for the last dozen years, though he has only been paid for it the past five. He is the author of multiple roleplaying game supplements incl ...more
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“Corvis smiled around a mouthful of venison, trying to catch the juices before they rolled down his chin. "I think you're being just a bit paranoid, Davro. Legends and superstition."
"You'll change your tune quickly enough when some banshee's sucking your soul out through your pupils.”
More quotes…