When I was offered this book for review I was a little hesitant as I don't think of myself as a fantasy fan. However when I thought about it I do read a bit of fantasy and sci fi, so agreed to review it with the author being aware it wasn't one of my usual genres. Once again opening my mind to something different has paid dividends though.
The harbour town of Scarlock is a virtual prison for its inhabitants, who are controlled by the moneylender Copeland.Those who get on the wrong side of him have to deal with his enforcer come bodyguard Blakey. Nereia is related to Copeland but this means nothing, she has had to become a master thief to support herself and protect her sister. However change is afoot and while Copeland starts losing control others are asserting themselves. Elsewhere the Mother of the Shantari, "guard and guide to her people", has to find The Lady and stop anything happening to her.
The majority of the action occurs in Scarlock, which has a faintly Dickensian feel about it, with its taverns and brothel, and the moneylender whose sharp practices trap the people in a cycle of poverty. I was captivated by Nereia's story and the way she remained determined to protect her younger sister despite the consequences to herself. I wanted to keep reading to see where the tale was going to go. I also found myself questioning whether Blakey was a bad person, inflicting violence under the guise of just doing his job, or himself a victim.
The role of the Mother of Shantari remains a bit of a mystery, no doubt to be addressed in future books in the series. She and the dark shore of the title provide the real fantasy element, and I was pleased to find I really enjoyed that aspect of the book and wanted a little more of it, rather than being put off by it. This is a dark and, in places, violent story that sets up what looks to be a grand epic.
While this book does set up a lot of threads to be picked up in the next one, and introduce a lot of characters I expect we will learn more about in future, I did feel that end was a little too abrupt and I felt a bit disappointed that I'd reached the end at that particular point. I need the next book in the series to be available pronto so I can pick up the threads again! This is a book that has been released after a decent edit and proof-reading, which always pleases me and I don't recall noting any typo's. That and the attractive cover make for a polished end product.
This is a great debut novel for J A Clement. The second book is one I'll be keeping an eye out for & I'm definitely going to have to reconsider what genres I say I enjoy in future.
Format: Kindle, review copy
My Rating: 4*