Here are a few things you can expect from this book:
A vast and immersive world with fabulous races and worlds;
An oh so epic space opera;
A fairly complex but intriguing and well done;
Great characters; and
Lots of intriguing elements to keep you wanting more.
On to the full review…
I say this all the time but I apparently never actually make a conscious I effort to do it; but…I WANT TO READ MORE SCI-FI!
So, when the fabulous WriteReads contacted me asking if I was interesting in possibly partaking in their tour I was super excited! I had a quick browse of the book synopsis and was safely intrigued! Having read Adrian’s ‘Doors of Eden’ I felt comfortable going into this book and enjoying it!
I took the plunge into reading Shards of Earth and was glad I did. The thing is with Sci-Fi for me I really struggle to stay immersed if it gets too scientific. I am definitely not alone in this, and I tread a fine line of what I consider to be enjoyable. So, this review will be from a stand point of someone who has read less than 15 science fiction books. I have done well so far, those I have read I have enjoyed immensely with a few exceptions but I’m still grateful for those books because it defined my taste a little more.
Shards of Earth, yes I am going to actually start my review instead of waffling, was a great read. My initial reaction was a good one. Though, I did feel like I was being given a fair amount of information at the start, it was done well and I was glad for the history of this world but it was still an info dump.
Shards of Earth is filled with so many incredible, unique and utterly captivating races and cultures and it was a thrill to be in such a world! The attention to detail of this world is fabulous, I personally am not actually a massive advocate for expansive worldbuilding. Don’t get me wrong I appreciate it and enjoy it when it is to my tastes but I like to use my own imagination to fill in the gaps, yanno? However, saying that it was actually the heavier world building element that helped me this time around. I haven’t read too much fantasy, as I said and the world AT has created had such vivid imaginary popping up left right and bloody centre in my mind, even my imagination was heavily influenced by things such as Mass Effect and other SF games and TV shows I have watched. But that ain’t bad!
I really appreciate politics done well in a book, I don’t like politics for the sake of it and it has to be crucial to the story. Well, I am happy to announce AT does politics great! There was such a refreshing balance in SOE because while we had fairly devoted characters they weren’t blindly loyal so I wasn’t constantly frustrated at their decisions.
I think something I look forward to when choosing to read a book by Adrian is that there is always something that is totally unique to it, in this instance AT created unspace and it was great experiencing it. I won’t say much on it and will let you discover that for yourself but know it is great!
I really enjoyed the character POV’s in Shards of Earth each grew on me more and more, they could have had a wee little it more development but it was by no means lacking. I think Idris was my favourite, but each had something they brought to the story and the team! Even the side character had a pull to them, you bonded with the team and I was constantly wanting to know more.
Shards of Earth was a great read for me, I enjoyed its epic world and its unique characters, and I cant wait for book two. The plot was fairly complex but I am used to that with fantasy so I was able to follow and enjoy it!
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I enjoyed this book and I am keen to see how it will progress, it was beautiful and creative and was what I needed in a sci-fi!
Follow the law and you’ll stay safe. But what if the law is wrong?
Tashué’s faith in the law is beginning to crack.
Three years ago, he stood by when the Authority condemned Jason to the brutality of the Rift for non-compliance. When Tashué’s son refused to register as tainted, the laws had to be upheld. He’d never doubted his job as a Regulation Officer before, but three years of watching your son wither away can break down even the strongest convictions.
Then a dead girl washed up on the bank of the Brightwash, tattooed and mutilated. Where had she come from? Who would tattoo a child? Was it the same person who killed her?
Why was he the only one who cared?
Will Tashué be able to stand against everything he thought he believed in to get the answers he’s looking for?
The legacy of the Brightwash is described as a gas lamp, grim dark novel. The setting for this novel was inspired by the era of the 1890s in a time of huge economic depression, and within that time period, there were many social issues that inspired some of the darker subject matter within this novel. Krystle does not pull any punches when exploring these social issues and really gets down to core of it. So the inspiration for this work of fiction is taken from a very dark time in human history, really setting the tone for this novel. This is a hugely original fantasy novel, with some very new and innovative themes and concepts. This novel can be described as a very character driven novel and my personal favourite, a grim dark novel. I was totally sold!!!
This grim world unravels with each passing chapter, as you follow the masterfully crafted characters through the brutal and unforgiving reality that is life within the Dominion. I think what makes this a very unique world, is that, it’s a move away from conventional fantasy settings. Matar does an incredible job of painting a picture of a world from this era, from the humble working class neighbourhoods, to the glamour of high society, to the sinister Authority institutions, down to the gritty gangster underworld, its truly vivid and captivating. There’s also massive attention to detail, even down to the fashion of that era, so this world really does burst into life. So, you see it features excellent world building with a progressive approach and is achieved skilfully to really put the focus on our characters.
The plot is centered around our main protagonist Tashue. We watch as he’s drawn into the corrupt world of high society and the Authority. As he climbs the ranks, he becomes embroiled in their corruption, but at the same time the cracks in his world start to show and everything begins to collapse. Meanwhile his ongoing investigation of the mutilated girl found washed up on the Brightwash, leaves him few clues, she does bare a mysterious tattoo, but beyond that his investigation is fruitless. He’s forced to turn to the criminal underworld to find the truth. Using his connections he’s able to seek answers using unconventional methods which invites it’s own set of problem’s.The biggest weight he has to bare is his son Jason, who is tainted, who refuses to register and who is now imprisoned.The Authority is really at the core of all these characters struggles, it’s grasp on this world is truly sinister, and as you’ll find out, it harbours such dark secrets. The tainted are invaluable to the Authority, they acknowledge the dangerous nature of the tainted and claim to be the Dominions protector. But have enslaved the tainted to utilize their abilities for practical purposes, allegedly is to promote peace and harmony within the Dominion…. In amongst the chaos, the shining light in Tashue’s dark world is his love interest Stella, but as with all things in this world, nothing is simple.
As the first few chapters introduce you to the investigation, and his relationship with his son, it hooks you into the story very quickly and for readers like myself is essential. The dialogue between father and son is very emotionally charged and parents reading this novel, be prepared for those heart strings to be pulled. There are so many aspects of this book that’ll provoke powerful emotions, it’s usually down to the oppressive presence of the authority. The exploration of some of the social issues in this book, from that era, are genuinely engaging and you’re compassion for these characters will be overwhelming! But despite this being a very character driven novel, I think even for those more plot driven readers, you’ll be able to see those indicators of this series becoming more plot heavy as the series plays out. There is so much potential scope for this world. But its drawn out slowly so there’s a great deal of intrigue that warrants so many questions.This is a dark novel, but hope does bloom ….
The best aspect of this book without question is the characterisation. As a huge fan of very character driven novels I felt totally immersed in their stories and I was totally captivated by the complexities of these characters. I felt the five POVs we follow gave a very three dimensional view of the characters and the well placed inner monologues gave further insights into core of what motivates them. So you really felt like you know them intimately. The characterisation for Tashue our main protagonist was phenomenal, his existential crisis was captured so perfectly!! Not to take away any attention from Stella our leading lady because she has some of the best virtues any woman could have, but she harbors her own dark secrets, her vulnerability was so skillfully portrayed. When she meets Tashue you can fully understand their connection because of the depth of understanding you have about these characters. There really is a diverse cast who are brilliantly fleshed out, even the Villains in high society to our silver tongued mob boss. But it was the consistency with the character work that was most notable, I usually talk about maybe one, or two favourites, never have I been totally enamoured with an entire cast before, not to this extent.
The vast majority of characters that I’ve read previously play into those well known character tropes and don’t always present something new. This is one of those books that really shows the big paradigm shift in how characters are portrayed in modern Fantasy. It seems , that the term grim dark is a term that’s used to often! But this novel is the very definition of a grim dark!! I feel Matar has succeeded beyond my expectations in creating some of the most original, authentic, morally grey, unforgettable characters and totally achieved that sense of gritty realism.
The social issues effecting these characters within this novel are hugely emotive, there are examples of racism, social segregation, huge inequality and addiction. All of the subject matter concerning these issues is handled incredibly well and are completely relevant.
The majority of these social issues are born from the authority itself and the presence of the Authority seems to manifest in every aspect of these characters lives. As a result the majority of the characters within this novel have their own internal struggles and are forced to act under the weight of their oppressors, often acting in a way that’s necessary for their survival, which really carves out a very lonely and isolated world.
“Better to be lonely and feel the sharp edges of it, she thought, than to be empty and filled with nothing”
The romance was so stripped down, it wasn’t pretentious, it was very authentic and central to this books plot. It’s not often that I feel emotionally invested in this aspect of a book but the romance blossoming in such a dark world really did make it shine a little brighter. I think when a relationship is very much the path to salvation for two characters, to me, it really has substance, rather than something that’s very superficial. I also feel that Matar has done incredibly well to be very inclusive, a broad range of readers will be able to identify with many of the relationships within this book, giving it a very modern dimension, which is totally necessary…
So let’s talk more about the magic system, which is central to this books plot. Within this world there are individuals with magical abilities that are referred to as having the talent, and by some are referred to as the tainted, dependent on who you ask … The tainted have immense value to the authority, but inspite of this, they’re still classed as second class citizens, segregated, dehumanised and stripped of their humanity, not even afforded basic the liberties of normal citizens of the Dominion. But the narrative from the Authority is that they themselves are the last defense between the tainted and there unpredictable, dangerous nature. I really liked the way the magic system was portrayed, you know in basic terms what its capable of, what it’s limits are but all the while leaving some questions unanswered, so there’s definitely still some mystery, which I really liked. However it is taking the magic system into the realms of a technology, which is moving away from traditional magic systems,which totally worked in this instance. The element of mystery surrounding the magic system, keeps you intrigued and unlike a lot of modern fantasy books, is not there to over shadow the weaker elements of the book.
I found Matars writing style to be highly evocative and very engaging. The pacing and the technical execution of the this novel was pretty flawless. I think it was the consistency of the quality of the writing that was notable, in each chapter you can totally see the amount of work that went into this book. This is a glowing example of the fact that flowery prose is not a necessity for good writing. The skill in the writing was abundantly clear. I can definitely see influences from David Gemmel and Anthony Ryan in the writing.
I was really left feeling that I’ve just been privy to the beginning of a series that’s going to be very special. I think that once you’re taken by Matars characters, the emotional investment is so overwhelming that you’ll be following these characters for as long as Krystle is happy to write about them. I really feel that Matar has burst out the gate with this stunning debut and it’s my feeling that she will very quickly establish herself within the fantasy genre. Krystle has clearly worked incredibly hard to forge something that is really original, something that shows huge innovation and creativity.The passion behind this book is abundantly clear and shines through as every aspect of this novel.
There are elements of this book that Abercrombie, Pierce Brown fans will absolutely love!! It’s my belief that Mr Abercrombie should be concerned because there is a new girl in town!!
I’m hugely invested in this series and will eagerly awaiting the next installment!!