In Solitude’s Shadow – Book Review
This week on the blog, I’m reviewing In Solitude’s Shadow, a dark fantasy by David Green.
Zanna Alpenwood, a powerful mage, stands atop Solitude’s walls staring down at an army bent on invasion. Two hundred aged and forgotten Sparkers are all that stand between the Banished and the nation of Haltveldt.
With time running out, Zanna is forced to reach out to her estranged daughter, Calene, and set her on an impossible quest. In doing so Calene must decide between her masters and her own conscience, as she teams up with unlikely allies to forge their way over land and sea. Will they arrive in time to save the fortress of Solitude from destruction?
Only one thing is certain. Ruin is assured if Solitude falls.
In Solitude’s Shadow- My Thoughts
I devoured this book in the last few days. Right away, the story and the excellent writing grabbed me. In Solitude’s Shadow has a great balance of fast action scenes and wonderful character development. I especially enjoyed the dynamic between Zanna and her young apprentice Arlo – for me the Sparkers were reminiscent of Jedi Knights. Zanna’s estranged relationship with her daughter Calene was brilliantly depicted, drawing on grief, anger and hope.
The warring nations of humans, elves and paler creatures known as ‘The First Ones’ reminded me strongly of Lord of the Rings. In fact when I imagined the fortress of Solitude I kept picturing Helm’s Deep. The worldbuilding is also fantastic – vivid description with enough history and context to easily follow the plot, without any unnecessary background.
Sometimes I’m a bit hesitant about Dark Fantasy as by definition it can have very mature or explicit content which is not really my cup of tea. However Green did a great balance of having a dark magic thread without being too uncomfortable. To be honest, there were two or three pretty gory moments that had me a bit squeamish! However the excellent writing good and gripping plot had my on the edge of my seat so much that a couple of gory scenes didn’t put me off. It is a ‘dark’ fantasy after all – so it’s perhaps not for the faint hearted.
In Solitude’s Shadow – a tense and enjoyable journey
Last week on my blog I wrote about tension in writing. The author does an incredible job of this, with his use of multiple POVs and use of time. For example one character might be just arriving somewhere, then it jumps to another character who is arriving at the same time. These are written with great clarity and I didn’t find myself losing the different threads. The build up to the war looming at Solitude is fantastic and delivers a nail-biting, exciting conclusion.
Something else I enjoyed about in Solitude’s Shadow is the complex view of morality, as the author tackles issues like slavery and racial prejudice head on. Even in the action scenes, people have mixed motives. Rather than clear cut ‘goodies and baddies’, the author draws on fear, anger and the darkness lurking within both sides. This matches with the misty light-and-dark setting of the book.
If you enjoy light-hearted fantasy, this book may not be for you – but this excellent story and fantastic writing really had me gripped. Would recommend In Solitude’s Shadow for any fans of dark fantasy or LOTR – a few shades darker than my normal read, but enjoyable from the first page to the last.
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