I’ve found indie books I’ve enjoyed lately but not loved; “In Solitude’s Shadow” by David Green, published by Eerie River Publishing, breaks that pattern. I received it as an advance reader copy from the publisher for an honest review.
Although I must admit I was worried when I read the subtitle, which is “In Solitude’s Shadow: First Draft,” I wondered if I was getting a rough draft of a novel, and this turned out not to be the case, thankfully. Solid plotting and good editing awaited.
“In Solitude’s Shadow” is a deliciously grimdark joyride through a dark empire filled with blood rage, dark magic, and genocide. It features an intriguing, well-developed cast of characters who begin to question their loyalties and deeply held assumptions. This is the story of Solitude, a fortress guarding the north from the land of evil creatures known as the Banished, who haven’t been seen for thousands of years. It’s a place where misbehaving Sparkers, as wielders of magic are known, are sent to be exiled. Even the magic system is intriguing; magic users tap into energy inside themselves and gather natural energy around them in order to cast spells, a detail which turns out to be foreshadowing.
The main characters include Zanna, a powerful Sparker, who mentors a half-elf, half-human boy named Arlo, who is beset with prescient nightmares and possesses a power far greater than any of them. Arlo’s father, Kade Besem, formerly a government official, is a spice-addicted idealist with a heart of gold and a soft spot for the plight of the elves; he thought to send armies to defeat the Banished at Solitude’s gates, and in the end he sent himself, in a compelling twist. Zanna’s daughter, Calene, and her mother are estranged since Zanna Eviscerated Calene’s father, a desperate act for which Calene never forgave her. Calene, formerly an agent of the empire, now travels with a ragtag crew of misfits, including an elf and a Banished.
In this world, Haltveldt is ruled by an Emperor who sees danger outside and within his borders. He aspires to rule with an iron fist and to do this he needs an easy scapegoat to unite the people in hatred; the elves are convenient. But a greater threat awaits, and history will repeat itself time and time again. As an aside, I did wish there was a map to help me get the lay of this land, but perhaps that will appear in the proper book for general readers.
The political machinations in this story are so well done. The evil characters are not evil for the sake of being evil; they are driven by complex, and still nefarious motivations. I found myself rooting for the main characters not because they were good people with perfect intentions, but because they were flawed, complicated individuals who still wanted to do the right thing.
I loved this book, and I’m eagerly awaiting the rest of the series.