Sunday 7 August 2011

Fantastic Fantasy: A Review of "On Dark Shores: The Lady"

My Book Review of On Dark Shores: The Lady by JA Clement:

On Dark Shores: The Lady by JA Clement is an enthralling page-turner and I adored the book. The marvellous story sucked me in from page one and the way the author weaves her narrative elements together, I believe she may be the literary child of Charles Dickens and Ursula K. le Guin.

In the town of Scarlock, a series of events are unfolding on a course to collide with unforeseen consequences. The thief Nereia and her sister Mary, the moneylender Copeland and his enforcer Blakey, the fence Mickel seem to be headed toward the mysterious forces surrounding the Mother of the Shantari.

Sometimes you find a book that is such a delight to read, you don’t want to pry your eyes away from the page; On Dark Shores: The Lady is such a book. You fall in this world of fantasy from the first word, swept along by a wave of mystery, struggle, fear and appealingly genuine characters. The author serves you a world you can almost smell and taste and hear, where people act from hidden motives, spite, desperation, honour, duty and even cruelty. There is an entrancing spell woven from every fibre, with characters scheming revenge or thievery, manipulating for their own ends, fighting to escape and survive. But still, a certain thread of hope or fate winds a subtle touch through the book to elevate any grim or bleak ambience, giving the plot a radiating spark.

The only bad thing about this novel is that it ended too soon, but as it is the first in a series I can look forward to more. The end left tantalising questions still pending and I’m salivating to read the next instalment. Lucky for me, there was a sneak peek at the next part tucked away at the end of the book.

On Dark Shores: The Lady is one of the best fantasy books I’ve read in a while, and I recommend you beg, borrow or buy this book. You won’t be disappointed.

On Dark Shores: The Lady is also available on Smashwords


JAClement said...

Wow! Thank you very much! I'm so glad you enjoyed it!

Essord said...

Interesting review, but besides a reference to Dickens and LeGuin and don't have a good idea what this novel is about. Why did it remind you of either Dickens or LeGuin and to what kind of existing fantasy can this be compared? I noticed the label 'epic fantasy', so what makes this story epic?

A. F. Stewart said...

JA, you're welcome. I enjoyed your book very much.

A. F. Stewart said...

Essord, I don't like including plot spoilers in my reviews, but I'm sorry if you found my description a bit to vague.

I was comparing style and setting when making the author comparisons.

"Epic fantasy" is a sub-genre of fantasy, used to refer to a book that is set in invented or parallel worlds; that is why it was used as a label.

Essord said...

AF, I am not asking for spoilers and I don't want to get them either. You made comparisons or gave references which intrigued me. Maybe I should ask my questions in a different way.

I can understand a similarity in style, but setting can mean many things. They have both written different kind of novels. Dickens for example is more known for his social comments on society, while LeGuin has used a wide range of themes in her novels. So you could for example refer to specific novels which this novel reminded you of?

The definition of epic fantasy you use is actually that of high fantasy. Epic fantasy is also high fantasy, but has a far greater scope and scale (like different peoples, races, supreme beings, languages, cultures, etc.). That is a distinction I make, because high fantasy has a too general definition which can include too much variation. If you use subgenre labels I like to know more if it is not clear from the review.

I asked my question about epic fantasy because the description of the story that you do give seems to revolve around a single place, which would make it an urban fantasy.

I hope this clarifies my question a bit and that this allows you to answer them.

A. F. Stewart said...

Essard, the main setting does take place in one small provincial town, but the novel begins elsewhere and there are numerous references to other cities and places in the book. The novel has two distinct cultures, allusions to a past war between these cultures and a fully realised class and social structure.
As far as setting and atmosphere, it is reminiscent of Dickens, (specifically Oliver Twist) and even a touch of steampunk, but it is the writing style, especially regarding the characters, that evoked le Guin for me (the Wizard of Earthsea and Left Hand of Darkness came to mind). And there is a significant undertone of social commentary, but subtly done.

Essord said...

Thank you for your answers. This is what I wanted to know.

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