The Shadow of the Soul is the second book in the noir/horror series The Forgotten Gods/The Dog-Faced Gods by Sarah Pinborough. Ace Trade is releasing the books here in the US a couple of months apart from one another as each was previously published in the UK between 2010-2011. The Shadow of the Soul picks up almost exactly where A Matter of Blood left off. DI Cass Jone has met with some success in his past cases but that success has cast a harsh light on the corruption within the London police force; a fact further ostracizing him from his peers. To make matters worse the lingering court cases resulting from his work in A Matter of Blood have left him with a boring case load. Of course that won’t remain the case as a series suicides hits London’s student body all linked by the mysterious phrase “Chaos in the Darkness.”
Pinborough seemingly took all the things that were great about A Matter of Blood and distilled them into a near perfect form in The Shadow of the Soul. A Matter of Blood was a fast read but The Shadow of the Soul moves like lightning. This was a book that, even more than its predecessor, I simply could not put down and I ended up devouring it in a little over a day. Pinborough peels back more layers to the dark currents of the supernatural that ran through the previous novel. We learn a staggering amount of information about the players involved in The Bank. Yet, at the same time, Pinborough manages to be quite cagey about the details. We learn enough to form impressions, to get ideas, but we don’t really know anything for certain. It is an utterly brilliant tactic that hints just enough to be unsettling.
Cass’ predicament in The Shadow of the Soul is tied heavily to the revelations regarding Cass’ nephew and brother from A Matter of Blood. Cass was told to keep his nose out of anything dealing with the Bank but the nature of those previous revelations have set him on an nigh unwavering path of conflict; plus it seems the Bank didn’t get the same message about meddling. Pinborough does a fantastic job a obfuscating the way in which all of the novel’s parts fit together until the very end. I was initially frustrated by this fact early in the novel but Pinborough manages to slowly conjure a sensation of both convergence and unraveling as the novel moves on. It is a curious effect that is greatly underscored by the increased reliance on the weird.
The weird elements in The Shadow of the Soul are increased greatly over A Matter of Blood and I absolutely love it. Pinborough’s ability to reveal new bits of detail that simultaneously reveal the depth of her world while providing a dark grist that can be further ground by the imagination is intoxicating. There are so many elements from The Shadow of the Soul that provide a greater insight into the shadowy figures behind the Bank that I’m not even certain what I can or should mention. Juicy tidbits like one of the shadowy figures behinds the Bank’s comment that there are people “still willing to offer them their children” (which to me calls to mind the Ammonite god Moloch), and decidedly cryptic titles like the Architect, weird creatures and strange experiments create a suitably mysterious and enticing blend that mixes surprisingly well with the cynicism and troubled nature of our protagonist.
Even more than A Matter of Blood, The Shadow of the Soul relies heavily on providing the reader with only partial information about the supernatural elements of the world. This is an element that I absolutely love; the willingness to rely on the imaginations of the reader has always felt like a rare trait in the world of horror fiction but it is one that Sarah Pinborough seems to embrace whole-heartedly. While The Shadow of the Soul concludes with less decisiveness than the previous novel it also manages to end on a note that leaves me foaming at the mouth for the third volume The Chosen Seed. Sarah Pinborough has crafted a series that leaves me wanting more and a highly recommend fans of horror and dark fantasy jump on the Forgotten Gods series as soon as possible.