Friday, 6 May 2011

Book Review: On Dark Shores 1: The Lady by J A Clement

On Dark Shores: The LadyWhen 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*


Barbara Silkstone said...

Based on this lovely review I am going to purchase copy of On Dark Shores: The Lady. It sounds very intriguing.

I'll have to purchase on the US site.
Thank you!

JAClement said...

Thanks TC - and what a compliment, to have made you reconsider your attitude to fantasy as a genre!!

Re the ending; this was once a longer book and it took me ages to decide where to split it. When I first decided to publish, I thought the original was too long for a debut novel; when you've worked for a long time on anything you think it must be good, but I was very aware that that is not necessarily a solid assumption and I wasn't sure how it would measure up.

This in mind, I decided to split the original into parts, so that if I got feedback that my style was not as polished as I thought, the later bits could be improved.

Further along the process I came to realise how important it was to have my stuff edited by someone else, and my two editors cut about 7k words from what I thought was the finished article - harsh but it made it so much better!

As you guessed, Part 2 (now in editing- should be out over the summer) tells of the Mother's flight from the mountains of her country to the rendezvous with the "Black-Eyed Susan", pursued by the Mardonese troops and dogged by betrayal as she goes.... I'll be sure to tell you when it's out!

Thanks for your review, TC; I'm glad you decided to take a chance on a fantasy book - and awfully relieved that I haven't put you off it for good!
Much appreciated;

TC said...

Barbara, I hope you enjoy it.

JAC, it's interesting to think about it in the wider context. It must be very difficult to decide how to divide a longer story up. You've far from put me off for good, I'll be waiting for Part 2!

Jason Matthews said...

Hi TC,

Just found your blog through the Amazon thread and am now following. Cheers,