Saturday 9 January 2016

Shadeward: Emanation - review

Emanation (Shadeward Saga, #1)Emanation by Drew Wagar
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’ve seen Shadeward: Emanation compared to Anne McCaffrey as in ‘a must for McCaffrey fans’ and I don’t disagree, but in fact this book has more to it. This is science fiction with real depth in all its strands. There are several distinct stories and each has a compelling central character. Wagar has built a world based on credible science, but nothing of this is force-fed to the reader. The quirks of this place are revealed through the stories of each of the characters and their situations; from feral children clinging to the edges of a rigidly feudal society to pioneers rediscovering lost technologies to the feared band of Drayden witches.

Each story line is compelling in its own right and gives a glimpse of this planet’s different societies. There are hints of a history shaped by some cataclysmic event that has been lost from the collective consciousness, but the focus of this book and what makes it such a good read is the vivid picture created of the world and lives of the protagonists. Maybe the real history of this tidally locked planet and its star, Lacaille, will be revealed in later books, maybe it won’t. Actually, I’d bet that it will, but for the purposes of enjoying an edge-of-seat read, Emanation’s backdrop of greater agendas just out of sight gives real depth to the story.

It wasn’t until I looked back on it that I realised what a complex setting Wagar had created. He does it with such a deft touch that involvement with the central players picked me up at the start and flew me through the prose desperate to see how each story unfolded. Within that, the world was so vividly drawn that I came out of this book feeling as though I’d seen a film.

When I reached the end I knew that each of the characters I had followed had barely begun their journey and that the rigid rules and traditions of the societies on this planet were about to be given an almighty shake-up. That might sound like a downbeat ending, and it could have been, but it wasn’t. The book closes with a glimmer of understanding of impending disaster but at the same time with the feel of a good read satisfyingly concluded. That is a very difficult balance to achieve but Shadeward: Emanation does it well. It left me envying readers of the future who will finish this book and be able to go straight to the next knowing that the whole saga is before them waiting to be read.

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The Boy in Winter's Grasp - review

The Boy In Winter's GraspThe Boy In Winter's Grasp by John D. Scotcher
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book is advertised as a YA novel, though I confess I hadn’t realised its YA label until after I’d finished it, so I read it from the point of view of an adult assuming they were reading an adult book. Did that make a difference? Not a jot. This would be a great book whatever genre box it was put in.

The book sets out its stall from the start with the flavour of something beyond normality and planting a layer of unease in the reader’s mind over the troubled Flyte family and 15 year old Christopher in particular. It is more than internal family troubles that Christopher will have to contend with. The reader is drawn into the atmosphere and mores of a 1914 boys’ school as Christopher is sent home in disgrace. Every backdrop and every context whether used fleetingly or as a major location is painted in wonderful detail. Christopher is a well-drawn central character. It is easy to emphasise. Indeed it’s impossible not to, and then the book won’t let you go.

The unfolding of the story and introduction of the key characters isn’t rushed, with each new character becoming a new and fascinating focus. As a reader I was drawn along into Christopher’s world, then Bailey’s, then Sama’s. The opening tells a deceptively simple story, but it’s gripping and as it expands it becomes a fantasy adventure to rival anything on the market.

It is frightening, heart-warming, gripping, exciting and all but impossible to put down. Very different from Harry Potter yet somehow cast from the same magic and every bit as good.

An ambitious mix of World War 1, Arthurian Britain, myth and fantasy, it could so easily have missed the mark, but Scotcher proves himself a wordsmith of real talent and gets it spot on. I can’t wait for the next.

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