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Review of Shadow of the Sands by Michael Diack

shadowsinsandsThe deathly Sanghouls have escaped from the Empty Province and, from within their golden dunes, they seek to wipe out all life in Empyria. Unaware of this, the last surviving humans continue going about their daily routine in the city of Nimar. But when the city’s water pool stops refilling, the Nimerians are forced to move into lands of myth and legend.

Only when Prince Viro, an elf of the southern lands, arrives in Nimar do the humans truly understand the threat to their existence. The two races must unite and reclaim the lost seven stones of light – the only weapon that can defeat the demonic shadow enclosing them.

As four of the city’s most talented young men and women, Athmane, Faria, Bayoud and Mary will be critical to Nimar enduring the perils, both natural and unnatural, that await them.

2 out of 5 Stars

I’m going to start by saying there are plenty of 4 and 5 star reviews for this book out on Goodreads as well as Amazon. My dislike might just be a preference in writing style as I found the premise of the story quite interesting. Let me explain.

As you’ll read from the book blurb (which I’ve decided to start including on my posts going forward), the setting for this book is a desert; much different from most fantasy novels. The people are slowly evolving and bettering their lifestyles with inventions and such. Every person has a job and is apparently devoted to their city. So far, so good. The idea is pretty interesting. I liked the blurb. I liked the story idea. That is why this got 2 stars instead of 1.

Now, I hate giving 1 or 2 stars because that means I didn’t care much for the book. I like most of what I read, so 3 stars is usually where I’ll fall. For me to rate it low, there’s glaring reasons, which I’ll provide below to be sure you understand where I’m coming from. I don’t take giving 2 stars lightly.

All right, we’ve established the story idea is good. How about those characters? Well, sadly, I couldn’t really tell them apart. The dialog read the same for everyone. Not only was it static, but it felt very stilted. It takes a lot for me to say that about dialog. I usually gloss right over rigid statements by characters. But this was a little too much and too often for me to ignore. Basically, the dialog read no different from everything else.

I was 26% into this book and still felt like I was getting an info dump. And that feeling continued the entire time. I chalk it up to a lot of tell vs show. It took away from my enjoyment immensely and kept shoving me outside the story.

One thing that threw me often was the choice of words. Again, I usually don’t notice this stuff much, but these were rather odd. Here’s some examples:
“A library is yo ur weapon? Can’t your quadrant build something cool for a change?”
The “cool” really threw me.
“Although it was still hot, around thirty-five degrees Celsius in the peak of the day,…”
Odd that we’re getting temperatures.
“At thirty-nine, Master Thane was not as quick as he used to be, yet his cardiovascular fitness was exceptional.”
Again, for fantasy I think cardiovascular is such a technical word to use.

There are several incorrect comma placements that tripped me up. I’ve said it a million times: I don’t have an editor’s eye; if I notice a few errors, there’s probably a lot more.

My biggest beef? Head hopping during a scene. I’d say about 70% is in closed third person, which makes those times we step out of a character’s head even more jarring. I got confused because we were told something, then a few paragraphs later the characters would ask about what we were just told. Example (contains a tiny spoiler):
Descriptive paragraph: “Puffs of pink smoke from the poisonous mushrooms ejected into the air but they had no effect on the trolls, who considered them a delicacy.”
At this point, I’m supposed to be in Jax’s PoV (at least I have been for most of the chapter). So he knows the mushrooms are a delicacy, right? No.
There’s a few sentences describing the trolls then this happens:
Jax speaking: “They’ve fashioned their own weapons. We’ll take them after they’re dead,” said Jax. “Why are the mushrooms not killing them?”
So as you can see, we the readers were just told a paragraph earlier, but apparently the characters didn’t know. For me, this might be a personal reading preference. Honestly, I hate mid section PoV changes. I love multiple PoV’s, but only when they’re nicely divided. Anything else spoils my reading experience. As you can imagine, I started skimming with a quarter left in the book. I just wasn’t involved in the story.

So, I think in the end this just wasn’t my style. I read quite a few reviews that praised Diack’s writing, so I highly encourage you to read a sample, though I will say most of my problems started a ways in.

Where to find Michael Diack:

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