The Outstretched Shadow is a mixture of excellent plot and mind-numbing exposition that is makes for a maddening read for anyone making it through the book. Authors Mercedes Lackey and James Mallory collaborated in creating interesting and worth-reading characters as well as burying them with pages of padding.
The book revolves around Kellen, the disgruntled son of the Arch-Mage ruler of his home city. Finding life in the city stifling and the rule of Mages like himself based on a lie, Kellen yearns to do something else and finds the Three Books of Wild Magic, outlawed by the Mage practitioners of High Magick. After his father finds the Books, Kellen welcomes banishment but almost loses his life without the help of the unicorn Shalkan. Once free of the city, Kellen starts his study in earnest of Wild Magic with the help from his previously unknown sister, but his father’s greed results in both of them running for their lives into Elven country only to find themselves in the middle of a drought, which is the opening move in a new war launched by the Great Enemy, the Endarkened.
The overall plot and the characters were very interesting, however Lackey & Mallory buried it under unnecessary padding that blogged down the pace of the book. Kellen’s worry and philosophical thoughts about Wild Magic was where the padding was most visible. While this inner struggle was necessary, the amount of time and the repetition of the same paragraphs was a discredit to the authors and undermined the trust of the reader. If Lackey & Mallory had been given a descent editor, the book would have been 100-150 pages shorter and much better for it.
The Outstretched Shadow is overall an okay book that unfortunately could have been really good, the protagonists and antagonists are well written creating the basis for a enjoyable series. However, the unnecessary padding of the book could result in discouraging readers from even finishing the book.