Today is my stop on the blog tour for ‘ Shadow Debt’ by William Ray organised by Storytellers on Tour. I hope that you will check out the book and the author, and enjoy the rest of the tour with the schedule in the banner below or (HERE).
Disclaimer: ‘I was given a copy this book in exchange for an honest review.’
Glynn Sorley is sheriff of Keat’s Field, a tiny settlement in an otherwise lawless frontier. With the discovery of diamonds, her town is flooded with fortune-hunters looking to strike it rich. It’s also a target for competing colonial powers, savage goblin tribes, and outlaws.
A rustler on the run from the law stumbles across his father’s mysterious legacy – a weapon of immense magical power. He uses it to ravage across the territory as the notorious outlaw Gentleman Jim.
But the weapon’s power comes at a terrible cost, and Keat’s Field may just have to pay the price…
This third Tale of the Verin Empire returns us to the world of Gedlund and The Great Restoration. It explores a frontier trapped between competing nations, where goblins reign and a lone sheriff fights to keep the peace.
Drawing inspiration from L’Amour’s Comstock Lode, Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, and our own late 19th century, Shadow Debt continues William Ray’s bold, critically acclaimed reinvention of classic fantasy in a world of memorable characters and unique perspectives, and features sketches from acclaimed illustrator Tom Parker.
Because I am a highly organised individual (occasionally, once in a blue moon…), I will be posting reviews for the earlier books in this series later this month, and I will link them together when they are up. Although it must be said that Shadow Debt works wonderfully as a standalone as I read this one before the other two in this series, while also drawing together themes from the earlier books.
I was a child who grew up reading fantasy and watching westerns (I had one channel that worked in my room and Sundays were SG1 followed by whatever westerns were on that week). Shadow Debt spoke to both those loves with an exploration of Empire and its role in periphery areas, with a healthy dose of other genres and themes in a mash-up that perhaps shouldn’t work but does. Fantastically so. Ray knows what he is doing, and manages to balance the different genres, weaving them into a high octane read with depth and breadth.
I have to start by talking about the worldbuilding, which matches the mash-up of genres for originality. This is the Wild West fantasy-style, and while there are traditional aspects of that world from cattle rustling to outlaws and gunfights, there are also indigenous goblins, demons and monsters and magic. I particularly enjoyed the magic, which was both new and ancient as it crept back into the world, and I liked that this magic was a problem. A threat, that came at great cost and that it posed so many questions from individuals up to nations, and while it wasn’t the only fantastical element to this book, it was very much a driving force throughout and particularly towards the end. The world of Shadow Debt, like the overall book, was a unique blend of different elements, and fun to read, especially when accompanied by the illustrations of Tom Parker, which only serve to enhance the world and story. This is a living, breathing world, where you’re swept into its pace, caught up in the gunfights and story, and as invested in the outcome as the characters that inhabit the world.
The characters were as unique and colourful as the world around them. Gentleman Jim was my favourite, for all that his path was probably the darkest, and who you are torn between feeling sympathy for and wanting him to pay for what he’s done. A wonderfully complex character, he brought the world of the outlaw – both internally and externally – to life. Yet, the other main characters, including Ned, who was as far from a traditional hero as you could get, and yet was also our pathway to most of the story. And Sheriff Sorley – the face of the law in a lawless region was a wonderful character, hardened by life, but with a depth to her, that was fantastic to see – all had unique voices and motivations and roles in this world. The cast of secondary characters was just as well written.
This was my first foray into the Verin Empire, and it hooked me from the start. This was an unusual fantasy that took risks, breaking down genre boundaries and expectations, and it worked so well. I look forward to seeing what else the author will do in this series, and what genres will come into play in future books. I would highly recommend Shadow Debt as a standalone, and the Tales of the Verin Empire series for anyone who wants something that not only thinks outside the box but breaks the box completely.
About the Author:
William Ray is the author of the Tales of the Verin Empire; including Gedlund (named to Kirkus Reviews’ Best Books of 2016), The Great Restoration and the forthcoming Shadow Debt.
Originally from North Carolina, he currently lives in Reston, VA with his wife and dogs. A graduate of Ithaca College, and Wake Forest’s School of Law, he has worked in television, retail, patent prosecution, trademark law and other irrelevant nonsense. To paraphrase Lloyd Alexander, however, if being a life-long lover of fantasy literature qualifies one to write it, then he is well qualified indeed.
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Shadow Debt (Tales of the Verin Empire #3) – William Ray – **** (4/5 Stars)
If you’ve read it or read in the future, please feel free to shout at me about this fantastic book.
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