Empire of Shadows

Raiders of the Arcana, Book 1

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Book 1 of Raiders of the Arcana
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Pub Date Apr 02 2024 | Archive Date Apr 01 2024

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Description

Nice Victorian ladies don’t run off to find legendary lost cities.

One trifling little arrest shouldn’t have cost Ellie Mallory her job, but it’s only the latest in a line of injustices facing any educated woman with archaeological ambitions.

When Ellie stumbles across the map to a mysterious ancient city, she knows she’s holding her chance to revolutionize Pre-Colombian history. There’s just one teensy complication. A ruthless villain wants it, and Ellie is all that stands in his way.

To race him to the ruins—and avoid being violently disposed of—she needs the help of maverick surveyor Adam Bates, a snake-wrangling rogue who can’t seem to keep his dratted shirt on.

But there’s more than Ellie’s scholarly reputation (and life) on the line. Her enemies aren’t just looters. They’re after an arcane secret rumored to lie in the heart of the ruins, a mythical artifact with a power that could shake the world.

Between stealing trousers, plummeting over waterfalls, and trying not to fall in love with her machete-wielding partner, will Ellie be able to stop the oracle of a lost empire from falling into the wrong hands?

Empire of Shadows is the first book in Jacquelyn Benson’s smart, swashbuckling Raiders of the Arcana series. Read it now and dive into a rip-roaring historical fantasy adventure perfect for fans of What the River Knows and The Mummy.

Nice Victorian ladies don’t run off to find legendary lost cities.

One trifling little arrest shouldn’t have cost Ellie Mallory her job, but it’s only the latest in a line of injustices facing any...


A Note From the Publisher

Content warnings for this book can be found at https://jacquelynbenson.com/content-warnings

Content warnings for this book can be found at https://jacquelynbenson.com/content-warnings


Advance Praise

"Sassy banter and sizzling romantic tension sparkle throughout the fast-paced action. Fans of Indiana Jones–style historical fantasies will be eager for the next magical adventure in Benson’s Raiders of the Arcana series!" 
- ALA Booklist

"A gorgeous, sprawling joy of a book ... a feminist, anti-colonialist tour-de-force, a pulse-pounding adventure tale, and a compelling, spirited romance all in one, with a meticulous attention to historical detail that shines on every page."
- Charlotte English, author of the
House of Werth series

"A page-turning historical fantasy romp with a feminist twist!"
- Olivia Atwater, author of The Witchwood Knot

"If you've been missing Amelia Peabody's adventurous spirit and secretly wished Elizabeth Peters had sent a heroine into the jungles of the Yucatan and added just a smidge more romance, drop everything you're doing right now and order Empire of Shadows!" 
- Anne Renwick, author of The Elemental Steampunk Chronicles

"Empire of Shadows has the perfect proportions of banter, exotic locales, and death-defying quests, and I loved it!"
- Rosalie Oaks, author of The Lady Jewel Diviner

"Sassy banter and sizzling romantic tension sparkle throughout the fast-paced action. Fans of Indiana Jones–style historical fantasies will be eager for the next magical adventure in Benson’s Raiders...


Marketing Plan

Marketing assets and cover images available at https://jacquelynbenson.com/EmpireMarketing

Marketing assets and cover images available at https://jacquelynbenson.com/EmpireMarketing


Available Editions

EDITION Paperback
ISBN 9781958051337
PRICE $24.99 (USD)
PAGES 478

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Average rating from 154 members


Featured Reviews

The Mummy meets Uncharted in this fun, female-led mystical adventure with unexpected themes and oodles of heart.

~~

Yes. Yes. YES.

OK so this isn't the kind of book I'd usually pick up and I honestly don't know why because The Mummy and Uncharted are two of my favourite things ever. So you take those, yeah? And you scatter in a bit of female rage and anti-colonialism and you get a book that is going to be rattling around in my head for months to come.

Full disclosure: I wasn't sure about this out the door. The story takes a few chapters to find its feet, with a some clunkiness that makes sense when you understand that it is a rework of a previous story. But oh boy, when the story gets into its rhythm and the current picks up I was completely swept away by the tide.

Our heroine Ellie is so much more than the outline of a female Indiana Jones. She is a woman who just wants to do what she loves in a world and time where she struggles to get anyone to take her seriously. Benson really handles the topic of suffragette-era feminism in a way that makes it an integral part of the story without coming across as preachy. Even in Adam, the male lead, she writes a man who has these learned quirks from society and tries his best to overcome them, and never faults him when he wobbles.

And Ellie & Adam? Oh please. Yes. More of them. Their interactions are so delightful, each of them shining with a wonderful character of their own and then pulling together into a duo I genuinely want to see on the big screen. Their friendship is warm, their romance slow burn, and after a while it begins to feel for the reader like adventuring with friends.

I also want to give a shout-out to the villain who honestly managed to be chilling without really doing much to enforce that image. His mannerisms, his presence, his utter lack of genre-typical monologues and grandstanding just made him so intriguing. In fact, all of the peripheral characters had a charm of their own, with the story recognising the nuances of good vs evil vs just plain selfish.

This could have been just another entry in a super formulaic genre, and whilst it isn't going to break any moulds, it is hardly cast in a mould that requires breaking. We know what we are looking for when we dive into the genre, and Empire of Shadows delivers a fun, interesting story with characters you just can't help but love. What does make it stand out somewhat from its peers is not only the aforementioned feminist struggle, but also the light it shines on colonialism, cultural theft, academic thirst vs cultural preservation, and how power must be earned, not seized.

All in all, this story impressed more and more the deeper I fell into it, right up to a climax that had me on the edge of my seat. It absolutely delivers on all the major markers of the genre and gives us characters that I am super eager to follow into more adventures.

I always end ARC reviews by thanking NetGalley and the publisher for providing the ARC in exchange for an honest review and there, I've done it. But I also want to thank them for putting this series on my radar. I will be eagerly awaiting the next.

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