In the Palace of Shadow and Joy by D.J. Butler science fiction and fantasy book and audiobook reviewsIn the Palace of Shadow and Joy by D.J. Butler

In the Palace of Shadow and Joy by D.J. Butler science fiction and fantasy book and audiobook reviewsD.J. Butler tries his hand at the two-loveable-rogues-for-hire story and mostly succeeds.

Our two loveable rogues are Indrajit Twang and Fix. Indrajit is the poet of his very small clan of people. He has come to the great city of Kish to find (he hopes) an apprentice who can learn the epic poem of his race so it can be passed down to the next generation. If he does not succeed, all of the history and culture of these few hundred people will be lost.

But meanwhile, he’s in debt and needs to earn some money. When he hires on with a risk insurance merchant, he meets his new partner Fix, a curious and educated orphan who grew up in Kish. Indrajit and Fix’s job is to keep an eye on a famous opera star named Ilsa Without Peer. There’s been an insurance policy taken out on her and the risk merchant thinks someone is trying to cheat on the deal. He wants Indrajit and Fix to watch for foul play.

It seems like an easy job until someone tries to assassinate Ilsa Without Peer. The two rogues must unravel a complicated plot while attempting to keep the famous opera singer and themselves alive.

In the Palace of Shadow and Joy by D.J. Butler science fiction and fantasy book and audiobook reviewsIn the Palace of Shadow and Joy (2020) is an action-packed and mysterious adventure set in a bizarre alien city. Butler’s strength is his creativity with all the alien species he introduces — they are really cool. Ilsa, for example, has two voice-boxes. One emits her unpleasant speaking voice and the other emits a pheromone that makes her listeners feel nostalgic.

All of this action and creativity comes at the expense, though, of character development. Our heroes, Indrajit and Fix, have a few unique traits that make them interesting, and the banter between them is often amusing and sometimes clever, but I didn’t care about them the same way that I care for, say, Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser. Part of this is probably due to Indrajit and Fix not being completely human, but most of it is just that I didn’t get to know them well enough or just didn’t like them as much as I like the two aforementioned loveable rogues.

In the Palace of Shadow and Joy stands alone but it appears that it might be the beginning of a new series — you know, the one where the two loveable rogues meet each other and have their first adventure together. As such, it pales in comparison to the sublime Ill Met in Lankhmar, which deservedly won both a Hugo and Nebula Award for Best novella back in 1970.

Still, I’m willing to read the next adventure of Indrajit and Fix, if it arrives. I listened to Tantor Audio’s edition of In the Palace of Shadow and Joy which is 8.5 hours long and was published in March 2021. Derek Shoales gives a spirited performance that worked well with this story.

Published in print in July 2020. Tantor Audio’s version published in March 2021. Indrajit Twang is the 427th epic poet of his people, the only person alive to carry their entire epic history and mythology in his head. His people are dwindling in number, and if he can’t find a successor in the great city of Kish, their story will disappear with them. Fix grew up a foundling on the ancient streets of Kish and is making his living as a mercenary. The woman he loves married someone else, and Fix has turned to buying and selling risk on the black market – but is he trying to impress her, or prove something to himself? Indrajit and Fix have been hired by a powerful risk-merchant to protect the life of opera star Ilsa without Peer for the duration of a risk contract he’s taken on. When an attempt is made on Ilsa’s life, Indrajit and Fix find themselves hunted by multiple mercenary squads and targeted by some of the most powerful men in Kish. Will they be able to save themselves, not to mention protect Ilsa, in the Palace of Shadow and Joy?


  • Kat Hooper

    KAT HOOPER, who started this site in June 2007, earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience and psychology at Indiana University (Bloomington) and now teaches and conducts brain research at the University of North Florida. When she reads fiction, she wants to encounter new ideas and lots of imagination. She wants to view the world in a different way. She wants to have her mind blown. She loves beautiful language and has no patience for dull prose, vapid romance, or cheesy dialogue. She prefers complex characterization, intriguing plots, and plenty of action. Favorite authors are Jack Vance, Robin Hobb, Kage Baker, William Gibson, Gene Wolfe, Richard Matheson, and C.S. Lewis.