This book offers a pretty interesting take on Shadowrun. After a succession of techno-centric metaplots, full of rogue AIs, emergent technomancers and nano-plagues, it is refreshing to see the magical side of the Sixth World under the spotlight, not just with a campaign, but with a whole campaign setting.
If you played the classic campaign "Harlequin's Back", you know what to expect: the runners have crossed a magical door into a whole new reality, with its own strange denizens, complex rules and unfathomable stakes. Court of Shadows takes the runners to the Faery metaplane, an astral dimension full of wonder and danger. This place is not new to Shadowrun: it has lurked in the shadows (pun intended) for a while, and its existence was already mentioned back in the Tir na Nog and Shadows of Europe supplements. But now new portals to this metaplane have opened, allowing runners to offer their services to the many factions of the Seelie Court (or their Unseelie rivals).
What makes this book successful is the fact it is both wonderfully different from "classic" Shadowrun (and delightfully weird), and yet doesn't feel disconnected from the rest of the Sixth World. A lot of people want a piece of the Fae's treasures, including the good old dragons and megacorporations. It's possible to play a whole campaign set in the metaplanes or have the runners travel back and forth, as they undertake missions for or against the Fae (not that's it's mutually exclusive !) The writers have come up with ingenious ways to translate concepts such as hacking or rigging in the metaplane.
While the book is pretty cool in itself, it has one weakness: it lacks a recap of what is called a Fae in Shadowrun, what are the Tuatha dé danaan, what are their relationships with Tir na Nog, the Ways of the Wheel, etc. As it is, it can be very confusing for newcomers to this universe, especially if they don't at the evry least own a copy of Shadows of Europe (published in 2003!) Since this is supposed to be a full game setting, the lack of such a summary makes it feel incomplete and makes some concepts harder to grasp than they should. It's a frequent issue in Shadowrun books: the writers seem to assume people have read and remember everything that's been written before, but even longtime fans need a refresher course.
Nonetheless, Court of Shadows is one of the strongest books from Catalyst, and hopefully there will be more supplements dedicated to the shenanigans of the Fae and their repercussions on the rest of the Sixth World. Court of Shadows also introduces the Sixth World Tarot, a magical tarot deck that will probably play an important role in future books. It's an intriguing idea, and I'm curious to see how it will develop.
[5 of 5 Stars!]