I'm trying to remember a setting I read at least one short story or novella in (I think there were several stories). The only distinctive feature I can really remember about the story/stories is that some people had an ability to cut a person's shadow away from that person. This granted them some kind of useful power. I don't remember what gave people this power; possibly it was a special kind of knife? I think the setting felt like it was inspired by Renaissance-era Italy (it may even have been somewhere in an alternate Italy) in terms of technology, names, general ambience, etc. The story/stories were about politics, subterfuge, theft, and so on. There may have been guild conflict. I believe there were compound words involving "shadow"; the term "shadowknife" comes to my mind, but there aren't really any search results so I could be wrong on that. There may have been other magic elements (wizards, occultism, something else), but I can't say with confidence that there were. There may have been some kind of shadow world or shadow realm or whatever, but in my recollection no human characters ever travel there.
I read the story/stories in the early-mid 2010s (or possibly late 2000s), likely in an SF or fantasy magazine. The magazine was probably Fantasy & Science Fiction, but there's an outside chance it was Asimov's or some other magazine. I am confident that it was a physical medium. The magazine might have been older than the 2010s, possibly as old as the early-mid 1990s (I had some back issues). I read the story in English. I think it's possible that there are books in the same setting, but I'm pretty sure what I read was a short story or novella.
Some search results that keep coming up that I'm confident this is not are:
- Conservation of Shadows by Yoon Ha Lee, as the story did not involve guns, shadow or otherwise.
- The Seventh Tower series by Garth Nix, as I don't believe the story featured children, and also those are books while I believe this to have been a shorter work.
- The Night Angel trilogy by Brent Weeks, as they don't involve the cutting of shadows, and those are books while I believe this to have been a shorter work.
Updates based on comments:
- I think cutting the shadow gives the power to the person who has cut the shadow away, not the person who has lost the shadow. Possibly not having a shadow gave you some kind of unique attribute that could be useful, but the actual desirable effect went to the person who got the shadow.
- It could be about stealing shadows using silver nails. The stealing shadows part, certainly. The silver nails, I'm not sure. I can't find the story based only on the description in DavidW's comment.
- I don't think it's The Subtle Knife - parts of it match (hell, I even read the trilogy in 2009), but its technology level is too high, the story/stories I'm thinking of have more to do with shadows and less to do with transfer between worlds, and it's a book series while I think I read a magazine story. The scary, you-can't-trust-your-own-memory explanation for my memories would be that I mixed several stories together to form the one I remember and this is one of them, but I'm not ready to give up like that.
- It's not The Fisherman and His Soul - I would have noticed if the story were written in language that old.