On its outskirts stands the Shard. Worshipped by some, feared by others, it’s revered as an artifact of wonder, a monolith of mystery. Where it came from and why it appeared, nobody knows. What is undeniably clear is that its very presence, like a dark poisoned dagger, is killing the land. A man who dwells in the crumbling ruins of Savrona, Justal, has dedicated himself to protecting a small girl, Kria. Like most people they survive by scavenging for whatever morsels they can find. One day their fortunes change when through a series of violent circumstances their paths collide with Avani Sovrarn, a young woman whose family controls the dwindling remnants of the city’s resources, and an unlikely partnership is formed between them. As tensions mount between the Sovrarn family and the citizens of Savrona, starvation drives the city to tear itself apart. This forces Avani and Justal to confront their pasts in order to save their future, and together find a way to shatter the Shard and free their world. Though between them and their goal stands a demonic entity known as the Prisoner, whose arrival threatens to wipe out what remains of mankind.
Reviewing debut novels by authors can often be a tricky thing. I wouldn’t call myself a particularly sunny person – but knowing that a bad review could crush someone’s dreams and ruin their image of the thing they’ve been working on for years, does mean that I don’t always accept offers of books to review, and when I do, it can be with some trepidation.
You will, however, be glad to know that none of my fears were realised here, as this is a very strong debut indeed. Compelling, with complex ideas made real in a dark and twisting plot, Bertrand writes layered and vivid characters, and detailed descriptions give life to a dangerous world – a world which, despite the many grim science fiction worlds we have seen before it, still feels fresh and original.
I had some mild issues with the pacing at the start, but soon adjusted, and I’ll admit that I do still have issues with reading ebooks – but that’s no fault of the author, more a consequence of me being an old fart. I was, despite grumbles, soon swept in to the tale of “Shadow of the Shard” – and there are some stand out paragraphs which really capture the way the author has with language, and some action scenes that move at a rapid and hugely engaging pace.
Whilst the ending is a satisfying one, these are interesting ideas and concepts that could do well with revisiting – and I hope that the author chooses to do that in the future. As a debut, it’s very strong indeed – so I can only imagine that further books will be even better.