Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Betrayal's Shadow (Mahaelian Chronicle, Book 1) by Dave-Brendon de Burgh (a review)

Just for perspective, I have been reading and loving epic fantasy novels ever since I picked up a copy of Pawn of Prophecy (Belgariad book 1)in 1983. That's 30 years ago, and since that fateful day I have read a lot...and I mean A LOT! Most new series that came out, I was there. With the dawn of the kindle/e-reader age the field got bigger, and, to be fair, the quality wasn't always there.

The main problem, for me, was variety. Realistically there are only so many times you can join the farmboy/villager/baker/general low-born person destined to be king in a quest for the sword of destiny/magic ring/family heirloom that will save the world. What I want is someone to raise the bar a little, tell me a new story. There are authors out there who do - Sanderson, Rothfuss, Abercrombie and now Dave-Brendon de Burgh (DBdB).

DBdB tells a story full of momentous WOW! moments. There is a cast of characters that walk that grey line between good people and bad. Not everything is clear, right up to the very last page you will be wondering at motives. I do not want to drop spoilers, so what I am going to do is tell you what made this stand out for me (you can get the story synopsis from the amazon kindle page)

First off is the world - from our first meeting with High General Brice Serholm on an island populated by babarian tribesmen to the markets and on to the Palace where lives a king who has ruled for 500 years the whole world comes to life. You don't just read the story, you are left with a sense of actually being there as events unfold.

Secondly, the characters. As I said earlier, many of the characters occupy the grey area between truly good and truly bad people, often doing what they have to whether they want to or not. These charaters do not have an easy time and, revelations (which I never saw coming) later in the book only continue to make things tougher for them - and books 2 and 3 are only going to make their problems grow.

Finally, the magic systems. For me this is where DBdB really ups the stakes. Magic can be a very difficult thing to do differently but believe me when I say DBdB really does pull it off. There is a scene early on, at a place called Shorwin's Hold, where a battle takes place and the first real use of magic occurred. Suffice to say I was amazed, a brilliant and, clever way of using magic - beat that I thought. And he did....... In a later scene a man is taken for execution - reading the scene I thought "oh, probably get his head chopped off or something along those lines". I was wrong....very wrong. I can honestly say, hand on heart, I never expected the method. It was stunning, mind-numbing in a way and will live with me for a very long time. Bravo Sir.

As for the story itself - I said earlier on that it was epic fantasy, and, while this is true, it is so much more than that as well. There is a hint of sci-fi in there also. And the monsters (and to be fair, there has to be monsters) are straight from horror fiction with more than a hint of the zombie apocalypse. In lesser hands this could be an awkward mix to get right but, like a master baker DBdB has got the ingredients just right. The ending, indeed the whole story, sets things up nicely for book 2, which I wait for with baited breath (until then, there is also a prequel novella - A Song of Sacrifice, also available on amazon).

Fantasy fiction needs authors with new ideas, authors that will surprise you with revelations and bombshells you never saw coming, authors that can say "step into my world and prepare to be challenged". Dave-Brendon de Burgh does all of these things. As a first novel, this is probably the best I have read since Tad Williams' Memory, Sorrow and Thorn series. Big boots to fill but this author, in my eyes will do it.

The purchase links (Amazon USA and UK) are available in the comment under this post

2 comments:

  1. Massive thanks to Andy for posting this review - I'm still drifting in a daze... ;-) If anyone would like to order the book for their Kindle, here are the links you'll need:

    http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00JWT5AXM/

    http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00JWT5AXM/

    And if you'd like to drop by my blog and get a glimpse 'behind the screen', as it were, here's the link: http://dave-brendon.blogspot.com

    Thanks again, Andy! :-)

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