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Reviewed by Christian Sia for Readers' Favorite
Shadows of Hemlock (Sequel to Apricots and Wolfsbane) by K.M. Pohlkamp is a gripping novel with strong historical hints. Aselin Gavrell betrays her master in her quest for independence as an assassin. What she gains is the onyx pendant she now wears. But she is consumed by guilt and finding freedom from her master's crimes comes at a cost she never bargained for. She has a list of kills and the Guild of Poison Assassins requires her to develop an antidote as reparation for what she's done. Aselin seeks help from an unlikely character who won't take any form of payment but a ruby ring with a mare’s head. With many enemies just ready to have her head on a platter, Aselin must navigate a dangerous landscape and confront her master's enemies, but can she gain her freedom?
This is a well-plotted story with a sophisticated female protagonist. Aselin, who had once been a disciple of Lavinia Maud, wants to be free and independent. But getting the recognition of The Guild comes with a huge price. It is interesting to watch her when faced with the choices before her. I wanted to see if she could defy the Guild and refuse to kill the four innocent people she is tasked to kill. The setting is a time when independence was difficult to get and this reinforces the conflict, creating a backdrop in which it develops. The prose is gorgeous and I enjoyed the way the author explores the elements of the setting, with vivid images of places in which the story takes place. Shadows of Hemlock contains interesting dialogues and strong descriptions. The plot is well imagined and skillfully written, with surprises that are hard to guess. The unpredictability of the plot enhances the suspense and makes this novel an enjoyable story to read.