Monday, September 8, 2014

Betrayal's Shadow by Dave-Brendon de Burgh #fantasy #review

Title: Betrayal’s Shadow (book one of the Mahaelian Chronicles)
Author: Dave-Brendon de Burgh
Publisher: Fox & Raven, 2014

Exciting things are happening for genre fiction in South Africa. Not only are locals making waves overseas, but we can now celebrate yet another fantasy author to make his debut. Betrayal’s Shadow is book one of Pretoria-based Dave-Brendon de Burgh’s Mahaelian Chronicles. In addition to this, he has also released a prequel short story, A Song of Sacrifice, which is available electronically.

Much like Steven Erikson’s epics, which De Burgh cites as among his influences, the story is told by a large cast of assorted characters. We are introduced to High General Brice Serholm; the Blade Knight Alun; the royal courtesan Seira; the Elvayn Khyber; scheming mastermind Cobinian; King Jarlath, who possesses near godlike powers – but at a price; and Del’Ahrid, an ambitious first advisor to the king.

Throw all these folks together and you have the ingredients for a suitably violent, intrigue-soaked plot. All characters have ambitions and secrets, which lead them into conflict as a bigger, ages-old saga plays itself out.

De Burgh throws readers right into the thick of things – a quality I appreciate, considering the fantasy genre’s tendency to indulge in exposition. Readers are faced with events that transpire after a war between humans and an elf-like, magic-wielding race known as the Elvayn. The latter have been reduced to slave status, but King Jarlath has plans for them, which may not be to the liking of those who prefer the status quo.

Battle-scarred Alun and young Khyber must both learn to work with their powers, for each has a role to play, and greater threat to face when the zombie-esque Reavers make their first appearance. For those who’d like a little back story, do pick up the prequel, which will help clarify events occurring in book one.

While De Burgh is definitely a South African voice in fantasy to keep an eye on, both novel and prequel could have benefitted from more stringent editing, not only to catch a number typos, but perhaps also to develop some of the characters further. At times I felt his writing flowed a bit too fast, which begged for deeper insights into characters’ motivations, especially with the large cast in this book.

That being said, this is still a worthy read, which should appeal to those who enjoy epic fantasy with a high body count, mounting tension and a fascinating setting.

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