Friday, June 13, 2014

New Book Review - Shield and Crocus

Book - Shield and Crocus
Writer - Michael R. Underwood
Published By - 47North

First things first, I got this book from NetGalley, so thank you netgalley and 47North for this opportunity.
Who doesn't love a good mash-up of genres? And that is what 'Shield and Crocus' can be defined as in a simple way, an immensely entertaining mas-up of various genres and innovative world-building which keeps the reader always on their toes. The action scenes are realistic in a weird way and the beautifully imagined city of Audec-Hal is a treat. I really hope this is the start of a new series featuring these characters and this world.

This novel takes place in the richly imagined setting of the city of Audec-Hal. Audec-Hal is a city that was build on the remains of the titan Audec. It was a peaceful city until a sequence of events occurring 50 years ago left the city and its inhabitants in the hands of the 5 powerful tyrants currently ruling the city. They are a gangster, a sorcerer, an android, a slaver and a madman; and they have been fighting over their domains for 50 years now, while a group of brave citizens/superheroes (the Shields of Audec-Hal), made up of the different races of general populace has been trying to free the city mother and the citizens from their cruel and whimsical reign. And there is also the fear of spark-storms which rage through the land at times and morph all animate and inanimate object into unpredictable things. Will the leader of the Shield's First Sentinel and his team be able to stop the summit which promises to strengthen the reign of the criminal tyrants more through their collaboration?

'Michael R. Underwood' did an excellent job of world-building which is quite different from anything I previously read and always kept me wondering what to expect next. This city features various technological elements as trains, electricity etc, but also has elements of the mystic with a tyrant sorcerer and our heroes constantly use various weapons with alchemical appliances to help them in their revolution. The different races and abilities granted by the spark-storm were also highly innovative to say the least. There are so much detail thrown in the overall narrative about this rich world yet leaves so much to be desired. I was always wondering throughout the read what obstacles will come next for the heroes and the author delivers various unorthodox elements (there was once a group android attacking our heroes with halberds even) mixing on various tropes of imaginative setting.

The book is a mix-up of genres in an epic proportion. The obvious influence of new weird, epic fantasy and super-heroics is apparent as well as subtle inspirations from other genres such as science fiction and urban fantasy. The narrative was nicely done, I really lived to hear from the voice of First Sentinel, an aged veteran leader of the revolution for nearly 50 years, the flashbacks were a nice addition and I would have liked to know more about these characters and their history, a fact which hopefully will be addressed in the coming sequels. The constant action, pace and sense of desperation shown from the characters made the last 100 or so pages that much more enjoyable.

As for the characters, they are all easily distinguishable as superhero archetypes as a whole, yet the combination of their various race and power with the mix of a new weird influenced world somehow made them work. Their back-story is quite enjoyable and leaves a lot to be desired for the next books in the series (hopefully not very far away).

The only real problem I have with the book is its total lack of humor, a setting so weird and with such a huge scope really need a bit of humor in my opinion. Although the lack may be due to the fact of its overall sense of seriousness and the amount of bloodshot in the novel, but we know from the past a serious setting can also have good humor (a good example would be the anime 'Full Metal Alchemist' or the tv show 'Supernatural'). May be this issue will be addressed in the future of this world.

In the end, I thoroughly enjoyed the book specially the last half with its fast paced execution and massive amount of action. In my opinion, this book is a serious contender for anyone's list of the best of the year so far. Very highly recommended to any fan of the aforementioned genres.

A well deserved 4.5 out of 5 stars.

PS: An interview with the brilliant author, 'Michael R. Underwood' is coming soon in the blog.         

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