Shadow Swarm, by D. Robert Pease

Before I dive right in, a few points:

  • I haven’t read any ‘high fantasy’ since high school, other than the occasional re-read of Tolkien, but I thought I’d take the plunge when this title was offered by Novel Publicity.
  • I believe every book has its audience; I encourage you to read other reviews of this book and make up your own mind.

When I first started reading Shadow Swarm, I was hooked by the premise. Guided by the promise of their king’s rebirth, this cult holed itself up in some sort of mausoleum for hundreds of years, totally disconnected from the rest of the world, guarding the king’s crypt. Then the king, Aberthol, came out of his crypt, with no memory of his life before. The cult became very excited, as expected, and they prepared the reborn king to be presented to the kingdom outside the temple crypt place. They dressed him up in his finery, walked him out to the balcony…

…and there was nobody there but some evil beasties who had apparently destroyed and taken over the kingdom. I thought that was really a really cool way to start things off. Here are these people who stuck their heads in the sand only to basically miss the apocalypse. Well, of course the nasties invade the temple and kill the Kindly Old Wizard Type. Aberthol and Elise-the only other character whose name I can pronounce-escape through some tunnels and out into the forest where they promptly fall in love.

Then she gets kidnapped.

At this point I’m pretty clear on the protagonist’s quest: rescue Elise. Along the way we meet her father, some lizard people, a dragon, some crazy suicidal cultists, and some angels. I liked the way the author wove real Earth Judeo-Christian mythology into this alien world, and I found the world-building in general pretty interesting.

This is epic fantasy at its most complex: the author spent a lot of time and effort naming everything, and you can tell there’s some logic behind the makeup of all the words. However, I personally found them a little distracting.

Perhaps I’ve been spoiled by fantasy authors like George RR Martin, who for all his creativity at least used names one can remember for his characters. Names with vowels and very few superfluous apostrophes. A few chapters into Shadow Swarm, I couldn’t tell who was who, who was male, female, human, or otherwise. It was just a tad too distracting from the story, for me. After a while I felt like I was trying to read the Silmarillion again. The whole time Aberthol spends with the Sa’Lavian (the aforementioned angel people), there is a lot of exposition, and some interesting bits about him rediscovering magical powers he didn’t know he had and something about him being possibly some sort of Sa’Lavian Messiah. I wanted to see more of Aberthol and his magical powers, less of the Nuadaim history lessons.

When I first read The Lord of the Rings, Samwise Gamgee was my favourite character. I loved him because out of all the hobbits, elves, and men, whenever he spoke, I knew immediately that it was him. He had a different speech pattern from all the posh folk. There is no Samwise Gamgee in Shadow Swarm. Everybody talks in that highfalutin’ flowery medieval fantasy sort of way. This is probably due to the fact that the characters that we know so far are a reborn king (posh), a former member of the king worshiping cult (yeah posh), a dragon (posh and posher) and freakin’ angels (OH MY POSH). At least Aberthol’s cluelessness endeared him to me, enough to want to keep reading.

I think the book had some great ideas and some solid worldbuilding, but I think I would’ve enjoyed it more if there had been a little more focus on characters, fleshing out a few individuals a little more. I think the character of Elise’s father was a good start, but even he could’ve popped a little more. I also think it wouldn’t have been all that difficult for the alien words to be explained within the text itself rather than in the appendices. By the time I reached the link to the appendix at the end of each chapter I’d forgotten all the funky words already.

I think if you’re the kind of reader who likes to immerse yourself in totally alien settings which are still rooted in familiar myth, you will enjoy this story. If you enjoyed the Silmarillion and the more uphill efforts by Tolkien, you will probably like this. I also think Nuadaim would make a decent campaign setting for tabletop RPG.

The book is overall well-written, and the story is solid. It’s just not in a style that I typically enjoy anymore.

And I still really like the fact that the cult of Aberthol missed the bloody apocalypse while hiding underground waiting for him to crawl out of his crypt. That was hilarious.

 

About the Book – About the Author – Prizes!!!

About the prizes: Who doesn’t love prizes? You could win one of two $50 Amazon gift cards or an autographed copy of Shadow Swarm! Here’s what you need to do…

  1. Enter the Rafflecopter contest
  2. Leave a comment on my blog

That’s it! One random commenter during this tour will win the first gift card. Visit more blogs for more chances to win–the full list of participating bloggers can be found HERE. The other two prizes will be given out via Rafflecopter. You can find the contest entry form linked below or on the official Shadow Swarm tour page via Novel Publicity. Good luck!

ShadowSwarm_Cover_hi-res
About the book:
Aberthol Nauile doesn’t know that he once led legions in a war that raged since the dawn of time, against an enemy that cannot be killed. He doesn’t know that he rode on a dragon with his father, and saw his mother die while giving birth to him. He doesn’t know that he once saved his great, great, great grandfather by defeating the black enemy on the slopes of a volcano. Aberthol doesn’t know that he beheld the creation of the world, as his grandfather eight generations before took the planet ravaged by a war of the gods and began anew. All he knows is that he awoke in a coffin in a tomb, and now the whole world thinks he is their savior. All he really wants to know is his name, and why he keeps hearing voices in his head. Get Shadow Swarm through Amazon or Barnes & Noble. 

 

About the author: D. Robert Pease has been interested in creating worlds since childhood. From DRobertPeasebuilding in the sandbox behind his house, to drawing fantastical worlds with paper and pencil, there has hardly been a time he hasn’t been off on some adventure in his mind, to the dismay of parents and teachers alike. Also, since the moment he could read, books have consumed vast swaths of his life. From The Mouse and the Motorcycle, to The Lord of the Rings, worlds just beyond reality have called to him like Homer’s Sirens. It’s not surprising then he chose to write stories of his own. Each filled with worlds just beyond reach, but close enough we can all catch a glimpse of ourselves in the characters he brings to life. Connect with D. Robert on his website, Facebook, Twitter,or GoodReads.

 

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