Book Review: City of Shards by Steve Rodgers

City of Shards 1Synopsis: In the Wormpile district, gangs rule the streets, unwashed urchins assail each other with minor magic, and the people boil under the sway of a monstrous god. Deep within those decaying alleyways, the boy Larin shouts his tourette-like outbursts at random, explosions that have turned him into a pariah throughout the neighborhood. And while he’s protected from the gangs by his drug-addicted uncle Akul—a warrior with a mysterious past and the emotional range of granite—none of that will restore his social life. 

But soon, Larin finds he has bigger problems. For the source of his outbursts is the malevolent being Haraf, Lord of Demons, enemy to the Six-Legged Gods. Now that priests of the Six-Legged Gods have begun creeping through the Wormpile, masking their terrifying agenda with calls for social justice, it’s only a matter of time before things spiral out of control. As Larin and his uncle find themselves surrounded by enemies, their only hope is to join forces with a perpetually drunk warrior-priestess and a high-born wizardress, who must hold her nose to work with the street-rabble she despises. And Larin will either follow his master Haraf, or watch his city plunge into a far more insidious darkness—one so great, it will turn mankind’s soul to ash.

Author: Steve Rodgers

Title: City of Shards

Publisher: JKS Communications

Date: 2018

City of Shards 2

I was delighted to be approved for an ARC for City of Shards: it sounded my type of book and I had seen positive reviews already.

It was exactly my kind of book; fantasy; magic; gods waging war and the main character being the underdog in over his head.

Larin is cursed with shouting a phrase – one he ultimately understands makes him a servant of a Demon. His life is lonely and isolated, ruled by fear – his uncle offers protection, but a crime-lord rules his district and no one will be seen with Larin.

Just as he feels like he can move on, the city falls prey to a cult and a powerful mage. Swept up in the chaos, Larin realises he has a bigger part to play in it.

You will choose, of your own free will, to follow your fate. Man’s free will becomes his destiny.

Larin is a great main character. He is vulnerable and lonely, but also brave – to the point of bordering on stupidity. He stands up for himself, regardless of the consequence, and refuses to endanger those closes to him. When he finds out he is more than he seems, he accepts the burden, knowing his power could save those he loves.

While Larin is the main narrator, there are a number of strong characters. Larin’s uncle is more than he seems, with a hidden past and a proficiency for sword-play beyond anyone else. Kemharak – an enemy creature I can’t even begin to describe – develops a conscience as the book progresses – and he isn’t sure what to do with it! Laniette is powerful and beautiful and has the measure of Larin from the start. The few friends Larin have are loyal to him, no matter what.

In the early parts of the book, I got a little lost as to exactly how the god system works – it wasn’t clear who was supposed to be good and who bad. But it’s not enough to distract from the story and I pieced it together as the plot unfolds.

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Apart from the gods, there was something comforting and familiar about this book. I was reading echoes of some of the other fantasy books in it. Never enough that it was similar to one or another, but just in the way the character was isolated from his friends (Robin Hobb) and the way the rules of magic worked (reminded me slightly of Eragon).

The book was original and extremely well-written, don’t think otherwise. But I enjoyed it more because of these familiarities – I could focus my attention on figuring out the gods, because the other fantastical elements were clear to me from the beginning. It’s difficult to explain: for me, it was a positive thing that I felt familiar with a world that I didn’t know.

The tension and pacing worked perfectly for the story. Larin never has it easy, but the level of the threat increases as the plot unfolds and draws the reader deeper and deeper into this world of trouble Larin has landed in.

I’m looking forward to the second book!

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