Well, in this week that I've been sick and had plenty of time to do basically nothing. Instead, I decided to get through one of the books haunting me since GenCon. So, I read Shadow Over Shandahar by T. R. Chowdhury and T. M. Crim. This is a 505 page, perfect-bound book produced by BookSurge and and a lovely cover by Lindsay Archer.
This is the first book of a small series, I know of three books so far since two were on sale at GenCon and the third was coming soon. The main character in the story, or at least the bulk of the story focuses on, is Adrianna, a girl with a father who hates her birth, a missing sister, and a remarkable talent for getting people to trust her. She also has a strong Talent which lets her cast spells and Gifts for foresight and seeing things as they are. These set up a really nice focal character for the interwoven plots to center on.
One of the talents of the writers is the multiple plots going in and out. I happen to enjoy these type of stories, seeing how they come together and split apart as the story goes on. I think they pull this part of the story off. The individual plots are very well done, with characters being driven by a wide variety of different reasons for adventuring.
There were a couple of things I wasn't fond of. The story is based in a variant of the D&D universe (exact spell names, classes, etc). I have absolutely no problem with that and happen to enjoy it. At least the classes aren't capitalized (one pet peeve), but it really felt like there was a lot of renaming to make it sound different. For example, larian instead of horses (or mules), halfen instead of halflings, and Cimmerean instead of drow. There are some distinct creatures and places in there, but most of it is just renamed D&D stuff. I'm really hoping that later books focus more on the stuff outside of the known fantasy world, there is such wonderful hints of promise there. I really like when writers go beyond the foundation that got them writing.
Another good aspect of their writing style is details. There are nice little details without being overpowering. Some of the little details, like Adrianna's scar, is actually a very nice touch that carries through the story. One of the best details that I like, and probably what made the story for me, is that the characters actually lost. As in barely able to drag themselves home type of lost, which is something you don't really see in fantasy stories that often and made a nice refreshing change of pace. Kind of made up for the "you all meet in a bar" introduction to the characters.
It was a hefty read. I found myself struggling a bit in the second hundred pages, but after three it sped up nicely. The various interactions of the characters really smoothed out and I felt that the first chapter made way to a much smoother writing in the later ones. The last two hundred pages went past faster than I expected.
Would I get the sequel? I did enjoy the later bit of the story, but I really struggled through the beginning. So, I would buy the next one, mainly to see how the excellent story turned out, but probably not the for the world development as it stands. I really hope they expand out of their initial base into more creative territory at least with multi-classing at least.