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Thursday, August 29, 2019

Shields In Shadow by Andy Peloquin (Reviewed by Justine Bergman)

Official Author Website
Order Shields in Shadow over HERE

OFFICIAL AUTHOR INFORMATION: I am, first and foremost, a storyteller and an artist–words are my palette. Fantasy is my genre of choice, and I love to explore the darker side of human nature through the filter of fantasy heroes, villains, and everything in between. I’m also a freelance writer, a book lover, and a guy who just loves to meet new people and spend hours talking about my fascination for the worlds I encounter in the pages of fantasy novels.

Fantasy provides us with an escape, a way to forget about our mundane problems and step into worlds where anything is possible. It transcends age, gender, religion,race, or lifestyle–it is our way of believing what cannot be, delving into the unknowable, and discovering hidden truths about ourselves and our world in a brand new way. Fiction at its very best!

OFFICIAL BLURB: Burdened with legend. Hardened by battle scars. Hellbent on bloody revenge.

As the son of a famous general, Aravon is proud to captain his own company against his people's enemy. But the experienced veteran’s march toward glory dissolves into pain as ruthless barbarians massacre every last one of his soldiers. Burning for vengeance, he leaps at the chance to spearhead a specially-trained company and pay back his tragic defeat with blood.

Desperate to not repeat his tragic past, Aravon trains his new warriors relentlessly. But the captain fears that all the tactical drills in the world may not matter when they’re forced to defend a helpless village against overwhelming odds. As his quick raids sow chaos amongst the enemy, the bloodthirsty savages threaten to make Aravon's nightmarish history repeat itself…

Can the captain take command of his fighting spirit before the kingdom falls to barbarous invaders?

Shields in Shadow is the first book in the action-packed Silent Champions military fantasy series. If you like square-jawed heroes, well-oiled military action, and epic world-building, then you’ll love Andy Peloquin’s gripping novel.

FORMAT/INFO: Shields in Shadow is 373 pages divided over 44 numbered chapters, and is the first entry in The Silent Champions series. The book is currently available for pre-order in e-book and paperback format. It will also be available on Kindle Unlimited. It is scheduled to be self-published by the author on September 3, 2019. Cover art and design by Wicked Smart Designs.

CLASSIFICATION: Military fantasy

Some demons can only be slain by the passage of time.
Aravon, the once-proud and renowned Captain of the Legion's Sixth Company, is now sole survivor of the bloodshed and carnage allotted by the imposing Eirdkilr barbarians. The savages have one goal: to rid Fehl of the half-men - those who traveled across the Frozen Sea, and took what wasn't theirs to take. Narrowly escaping the fate of his men, Aravon finds sanctuary under the care and protection of the Duke of Eastfall, a man who bravely fought alongside his own father. With hope of securing their foothold in Fehl, and driving the barbarians back across the Sawtooth Mountains, the Duke establishes an elite force to work in the shadows, subverting the Legion Aravon once loyally served. Aravon and his team must infiltrate the Eirdkilrs from inside their own territory in order to save the entire kingdom. Against the odds, is there a chance for success, or will his fear of repeated failure, and underlying need for forgiveness and redemption hinder his path?

Shields in Shadow is a perfect example of what Military Fantasy has to offer: mathematically strategic and filled with visceral, high-energy, and bloody battles. While I originally went into this story expecting a first-class crew single-handedly picking apart the enemy from the inside, the nameless company relies on planning, subterfuge, and sheer luck to aid those that lie in the Eirdkilrs' path. With very specific information - odds, yardage, travel times, sizes of weapons (and people) - I often found myself feeling like a General leaning over a marker-covered map, listening to my Commanders tirelessly discussing battle and travel tactics. While this comprehensive and scientific approach may work for most, there were instances that began to pull me from the immersion of the story. The beginning of the book builds a powerful engine for vengeance, but at times I felt as though this concept took a backseat in the events that followed. What started as a tale of retribution essentially became the saga of Captain Aravon and his redemption.

Peloquin presents us with a diverse cast of strongly developed characters, reminiscent of a well-rounded role-playing party. Aravon, Legionnaire Captain living in his father's shadow, a true leader of men, yet broken by slaughter. Colborn, the unlikely, yet capable half-Fehlan Lieutenant, master of the lands. Belthar, the massive axe-wielding warrior with a heart of gold, always throwing himself towards the frontlines. Zaharis, the mysterious and monk-like Secret Keeper, master alchemist and honed warrior. Noll, a talented Scout of the shattered Sixth Company who deeply resents Aravon for surviving the massacre. Draian, the Mender/healer who's more comfortable fixing men than breaking them. And finally Skathi, an archer specifically trained to counter Eirdkilr ranged weapons, and sole woman on the team. In order to achieve the impossible, they must work together as a cohesive unit, despite only being acquainted with each other for a short amount of time. Witnessing the building of trust, as well as the brotherly/soldierly banter, added an appreciated levity to an otherwise dark story.

While the first third of the book introduces us to and develops the character dynamics, the rest is spent on the many highways, forest paths, and wagon trails throughout Fehl. Our group of heroes is always on the move, in hopes of staying ahead of the Eirdkilr horde and preventing the destruction it will inevitably leave in its wake. Stories told around campfires and while atop horseback are vehicles for worldbuilding, intelligently narrating the past, preparing for the present, and setting up the future. We get but a glimpse of the magic and myth infused into the world, with insights into an enigmatic race that came before - one able to harness the mysteries of creation, and the present chase to unlock those secrets. Creatures of legend grace the skies and lands, and mentions of gifts bestowed by the gods piqued my interest. I only wished these aspects were built upon more as we traveled farther into Fehlan territory.

CONCLUSION: Carefully written with sharp attention to minute details, Peloquin has created a treat for fans of the Military Fantasy sub-genre. The book ties up nicely, but the final chapter paves the way for the future of the series with a jarring unanswered question. I will admit I found myself questioning several inconsistencies, mainly when it came to communication between our heroes, as well as instances of unnecessary repetition, but the underlying story kept the pages turning at a rapid pace. If you're looking for strategy and beautifully executed action, then Shields in Shadow is what you're looking for.

Note: I'd like to thank the author for providing me with a complementary advanced copy of this in exchange for an honest review.



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