Book Review: In Solitude's Shadow by David Green
Title: In Solitude’s Shadow (Empire of Ruin #1)
Author: David Green
Publisher: Eerie River Publishing (indie)
Page Count: 270
If you loved the premise of the Nightwatch in Game of Thrones meets The Witcher with hints of Sanderson, then this is the book for you.
In Solitude’s Shadow is the first book in the Empire of Ruin series and it’s a delightfully pacey read that balances three main point of view characters—Zanna, Calene and Cade—as they struggle to survive in an Empire set on war.
Particularly well done was the characterisation of the Empire’s warmongers. Despite several characters filling this role at various places in the books, they each felt distinct and fuelled by their own different, and often perverse, logic. Greed, arrogance, lust for power, and a twisted sense of responsibility all come into play to create villains that readers can love to hate.
For me, the weakness of the story is in its opening pages with the premise being distractingly derivative. Inevitably, I kept thinking of the works these elements evoked rather than the story in front of me. The opening reminded me vividly of the opening of Sanderson’s Way of Kings, followed by a Nightwatch Game of Thrones setup with banished people massing beyond the wall. Meanwhile, the Empire is at war with the elves of the elves and doing its best to genocide them out of existence (cue The Witcher vibes).
Once the story moves past that and introduces more original elements, it differentiates itself. We get an intriguing magic system with the Sparkers (read mages) and hints of another, unknown magic in the form of the Banished’s songs. Moreover, as the mystery and adventure start to layer and twist tropes enough to make them feel fresher, the story and author’s strength of craft begins to shine.
Overall, In Solitude’s Shadow is an exciting, pacey read and a solid start to a series that drops tantalising hints of greater things to come, from other worlds and gods to magic new and old. While seasoned fantasy fans might find the opening a little tedious, your patience will be rewarded as the story moves away from its inspirations and starts forging its own path.
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