Brilliant Shadows – Part One of the Book of Gray Magic is a fantasy adventure visual novel from Ithaqua Labs. It follows Veronica Ashmar — called Ash by her friends — a young necromancer who has just graduated from her magical education in the Mountain.
This place of learning trains both necromancers and paladins, and tradition dictates that when they graduate, one of each type of mage are paired together, entwining their lives and fates from that point onward. Those that are successfully paired have matching marks on their hands and are allowed to venture into the world as fully fledged mages. Those who fail remain as nothing more than hedge mages.
Heading into the pairing ritual, Ash is certain that she will be matched with her best friend and paladin Prudence. But when the vital moment arrives, Prudence is paired with someone else, while Ash finds herself with a marked hand and no one to match. This is a total anomaly in the Mountain, which leaves the newly minted full necromancer to solve this magical mystery while trying to find her pair.
Brilliant Shadows – Part One of the Book of Gray Magic is a well-written visual novel that has interesting art, and real depth to both its characters and worldbuilding. Particularly poignant is the relationship between Prude and Ash — a classic tale of falling in love with your straight best friend and contending with the consequences. Ash is deeply in love with Prude, and while she knew that they would never be together romantically, she always assumed that they would be paired and therefore together forever. When that turns out to not be the case, Ash is devastated and her relationship with Prude becomes progressively more strained as she becomes closer with the male necromancer she was paired with instead.
Most of Brilliant Shadows’ story follows Ash on her quest to figure out who she’s paired with and what happened during her ritual. But it also fleshes out the ways she and Prude are trying to establish themselves as adults while trying to maintain their relationship, the way magic and political power work in this world, and more. Given that the game is 57,023 words long, this isn’t too surprising, but those words are all put to good use in telling this story.