First off, I'd like to clarify one thing. I don't really consider myself a Forgotten Realms reader (never mind my various Drizz't books or the Shadows of the Spider Queen novels) so I don't have a Master's degree in the setting. Having said that, Shadowbred was an interesting read and starts out with a prologue that hooked me in the same way the new Indiana Jones trailer has people revved up for the movie. As for the rest of the book itself, Kemp manages to juggle multiple points of view whether it's the heroes or the villains. What I find compelling is that several characters in the book are either true anti-heroes (not surprising for other genres but definitely surprising for D&D) or genuine villains. It's good to be evil or simply practical and I haven't enjoyed myself like this since the Shadows of the Spider Queen series (the last book in that series was also by Kemp but I find his writing style there was muted for the sake of consistency with the other authors). The main character, Erevis Cale, is clearly Kemp's baby but being new to this, I didn't find anything too confusing for a new reader. There are enough flashbacks to gives us a sense of the character and even tickled my curiosity. There's a few scenes though that are a tribute to his past so if you're an Erevis Cale fan, you definitely should check out this book but as for me, having no previous rapport with the character, didn't find that the scenes were too out of the way. Kemp's writing style is clean which is to say there's nothing that remarkably defines it but on the other hand there's also nothing distracting about it. Overall the book's a fun read with suspense written all over, especially since this is a book where the villains might win. I'm generally skeptical of the Forgotten Realms line (I was burned by the Dragonlance line) but if many of the books are written like this, I might reconsider.
1 - There are better ways to spend your time.
2 - Ho hum books, usually typical of its genre. Probably only recommendable to die-hard fans.
3 - A cut above the rest, usually with one or more elements that sets it apart from the norm.
4 - Highly recommended and is easily a pioneer of the genre.
5 - A classic or it will be.