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Thursday, March 31, 2022

SPFBO Finalist review: Shadows of Ivory by T.L. Greylock and Bryce O'Connor


Book links: AmazonGoodreads

AUTHOR INFO: T L Greylock is the author of THE GODFORGED CHRONICLES series and THE SONG OF THE ASH TREE trilogy.

She can only wink her left eye, jumped out of an airplane at 13,000 feet while strapped to a Navy SEAL, had a dog named Agamemnon and a cat named Odysseus, and has been swimming with stingrays in the Caribbean.

P.S. One of the above statements is false. Can you guess which?

Publication Date: August 4, 2020 Publisher: Wraithmarked Creative Page Count: 500 Cover art: Tatiana Anor Formats: ebook, paperback, audiobook


JENNIFER

I actually won a copy of this book last year on Twitter and have been dying to get to it.

Initially, I loved the cover. It drew my interest immediately but, that was before I read the book and realized that this is more an adventuring archeologist kind of story, than the darker, Forgotten Realms kind of thing that the cover implies. I probably would have tossed everything aside and read it sooner, if I had known, just because ‘adventuring archeologist’ is more my speed of reading, and I generally try to break up the grim reads a little bit.

Anyway…

I enjoyed Shadows of Ivory a lot.

The writing style suits the story setting and it has that great combination of adventure, legend, and magic. (The same kind of style that made me fall in love with movies like Raiders of the Lost Ark). It’s fun and the characters are memorable- there wasn’t a pov that I didn’t enjoy and/or want to get back to their story and to see what was happening with them.

There are several pov’s, and a lot peripheral characters – I totally lost track of who was who with the powerful dukes, and some of the others ‘bad guys’ but the main players and their entourages, were on-screen interacting with each other enough that I was able to keep up with them with no problems.


(Sometimes it felt like incredibly long between pov’s depending on the circumstances that pov was left in. Like Albus- it nearly killed me waiting to see what befell him after he left with Keleut)

I really liked the way the history and world-building were done through items, artefacts, and treasures and little stories. There was an easy enjoyable feel (the characters felt like they loved their jobs) to the way the information was imparted that never felt stodgy or dry. But I do think this could have been reigned in a little. (I think the characters weren’t the only ones who loved this part of the storytelling)

A lot of the histories felt very unconnected for a long time. And the tales and the interludes filled in past stories and hinted at other things, enriched the world but also somewhat muddled the direction the story was going at times, leaving me feeling like we weren’t gaining much ground in the plot.

(There wasn’t a moment that I didn’t enjoy the world building but there were a lot of moments that I wondered where the story was going because it seemed to have lost some focus in its excitement to tell me about an artefact, making me wish for a little less looseness to what was going on.)

The magic.

Users are called carriers with elemental type magic; fire, water, etc. also metals, even blood. Some had ability others do not and there seemed to be a bit of a stigmata upon those who could…the typical kind of prejudice against them.
There is powder that aids in the use of their magic by extending range, and power. And also there are dangers to users from things like carrier fever, or just other users that have the power to sap it away.

I feel like this only touched the surface of the magic and the part it will play, and that we are in for interesting things to come.

There were things I loved about this book and it started off great, like ‘we are in for a ride’ kind of great- there is a huge discovery that is going to be made, and Eska, is fleeing from the city to go in search for it, all while avoiding murder charges- you just knew you were on the tipping point of a rollercoaster ride! But it never quite pushed past that point.

The characters were consistently good, though a lot of times I was wishing Mannon and Eska were a team, instead of rivals. But I’m always wishing for a good girlfriend buddy read. The story was always interesting and I was always on board for what was going on even when it felt a little meandering and I would forget for awhile about certain plot points that kicked things off in the beginning.

Other notes-

The diving scene was straight out of my nightmares- it was every worry I have ever had about diving rolled into one. Very tense.

I was so impatient with Eska, when she would find exciting stuff and not open it right then and there….

The honey substance was the best scene. (All the Lost Ark vibes in this one)

JONATHAN

Shadows is the story of two daughters of rival houses: Eska de Caraval, a smart, driven young woman obsessed with ancient relics, with the backing of her wealthy and aristocratic family … and Manon Barca, a mercenary archaeologist and warlock whose family fortune has faltered, all but setting her adrift. Both seek the god discs—bronze discs of power locked in the storage boxes of an ancient lineage of tyrannical kings.

First off, I enjoyed being immersed in the setting. The constructed world is deep, with a lot of history and subtle political rivalries lurking under the surface (some of which burst into view in the course of the story). The entire set up of the hidden relics felt organic to the setting and different nation-states the characters navigate. There is an interesting magical system here, which plays a key role at certain plot points. The story itself has a very Raiders of the Lost Ark / Tomb Raider vibe (I consider that a positive!) and the plot also moves pretty quickly. I didn’t ever feel bogged down or bored. Action and fight scenes felt brief, tense, and held my attention, including (minor spoiler alert) one underwater fight that was riveting. I loved that the rivalry between Eska and Manon felt so real and angry. A few hidden twists made things more entertaining, though I wonder at the potential set-up of a love triangle that felt a little forced.

Of the two principles, I found myself empathizing more with Manon than Eska, even though I think the latter is intended as the protagonist. I felt that Eska just came off as a bit… insufferable, especially early on. A little too perfect, a little too infallible. As things start to go sideways and she begins to slowly show some human flaws, I found Eska more tolerable, though that was about it. Manon, on the other hand, is carting around a lot of baggage and I usually prefer my protagonists damaged, so I liked her a lot. A third POV is provided by the scholar Albus but I didn’t gel with his sections, which seemed more to get out important information than to develop his character. The most prominent secondary characters are varied and distinct.

Overall, Shadows is a good, fast-paced read and one I enjoyed. I am not sure I would mesh well with Eska in the long run, though. The book should appeal to readers who enjoy strong female leads, plots and intrigue, rivalries, and quests for lost artifacts.


ŁUKASZ

I didn’t know archaeology was so cool. Eska de Caraval comes from money. She’s smart, good-looking, and driven. She also has little interest in trivial matters; scientific work is her priority. Manon de Barca, on the other hand, pursues archaeology to make money. Their rivalry keeps things exciting.

Eska gets framed for murder and hunted for the bronze disc she did not steal. Her wits and focus (enhanced by a drug she consumes excessively) help her face her opponents and overcome adversities (natural and preternatural). When Manon loses everything, she must sell her unique gifts (Carrier magic) to protect her family.

I loved almost everything about this book. It’s done with such a great spirit of high adventure and excitement that you barely have time to catch your breath between the adrenaline-fueled action scenes. The protagonists’ storylines kept me engaged by keeping the stakes personal.

The world inspired by Renaissance Italy hides many secrets and there’s a lot of power play and politics going on in the background. It gives context to the events but never eclipses them.

That being said, the first half of the story was slower, and the second got grand in scope. So grand that it left a lot of questions unanswered and served as a set-up for the sequel. Don’t get me wrong - I’ll be getting the sequel as soon as I can, but I would like a better conclusion.

The main issue I have with Shadows of Ivory as a product is its cover*. It’s misleading about the tone of the story. It suggests something bleak and can discourage readers from trying it. And that would be a shame. In reality, it’s an exciting adventure fantasy with a few darker moments. I think the original cover conveyed the story and the tone of the book much better1.

I had a blast reading (actually listening to) Shadows of Ivory and I can't wait to read the sequel.

* But perhaps the new cover sells better? Not sure. Personally, I dislike it and if the book weren't picked as SPFBO finalist, I would probably not read it precisely because the new cover suggests something MUCH darker than pure excitement and great characters that you get.

OFFICIAL SPFBO SCORE






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