Saturday, September 17, 2011

Shattergrave Knights

This was a book I read on Kindle, because it kept popping up on my suggested list.  At first I didn't think I'd like it because it was set in a totalitarian world - those sort of books are usually disturbing.  This one was disturbing in parts - there is a witch hunt for traitors and innocent people get hung.  Overall

Jack and Olive are teenage twins living in a small town.  Early in the book we are given a history lesson in the form of a pageant that Jack is forced to participate in.  Basically there was an evil guy called Maxander who was supported by his Shattergrave Knights and goat-headed creatures called Tautho.  He was defeated by the Protectorate, the current religious totalitarian government.

A very nasty witchfinder is sent by the government to investigate an old woman who may be a witch.  The witchfinder starts convicting people of treasonous activities on flimsy or no evidence, and hanging them in the public square.

Jack and Olive find out they are the descendants of one of the Shattergrave Knights, and are given some magic items, just as the witchfinder decides to investigate them.  They are forced to flee, along with their newly discovered aunt and her friend.  Their destination is a city ruled by a dragon where the Protectorate has no power.

The book then becomes a journey style novel as the four of them head for the dragon's city.   They use ruses and magic to escape their pursuers.  They get into bad situations and escape them in surprising ways.  They pick up some unusual companions who end up helping them.   All of this is very enjoyable.  

After an interlude in the city they must go back and rescue their parents from a mind control prison situation and carry out rebel type activities on the Protectorate.  This is where the book feels a little choppy.  The journey to the city was covered in detail, down to what the characters are feeling and the vegetation of the terrain they are travelling on.  Then all of the sudden for the second journey - bang!  There they are at the destination.  I guess we are just supposed to imagine that a bunch of stuff happened, like the first trip but different and they got there ok.  This was not a major problem with the book though, I just felt like it could have been handled a little smoother.

This is a spoiler free review so I'm not going to talk about what happens next - it's pretty much what you would expect if you read a lot of fantasy novels, done in an entertaining fashion.

I was surprised how much I liked this book.  I hope there will be a sequel or other books set in this world.

A few things that worked well:

Most people have pretty common names in this book.  The main characters are Jack, Olive, Daniel, Prudence and Zanzibar.  Ok, the last one is a little unusual.  But there's no one named A'athurun or Emmyldr or anything like that.  The author doesn't need to constantly remind us that we are in a fantasy world by using made up names.  

I liked the system of magic a lot.  Magic is mostly done by speaking a special language which lets you overwrite reality.  You have to be very careful with pronunciation.  There are magic objects too, such as the magic circlet Jack was given which whispers to him the best way to destruct anything and anyone around him.  Very handy!

I hope there are sequels to this book, I would definitely read them.

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