New Book Review 34: Shiva XIV

shiva xivThe next book review on this site is Lyra Shanti’s science fiction/space opera novel Shiva XIV, first of the Shiva XIV series, which currently includes three novels and one short story. The series is set in what seems to be a distant future, where humans have established civilizations on several different planets throughout the universe.

The protagonist of the novel is Ayn, the son of the queen of the planet Deius. All of the people on Deius follow a strict religious doctrine, and Ayn is declared at birth to be the fourteenth incarnation of Shiva (a god from real-world Hinduism, although I wasn’t sure if he is meant to be the same god in this novel) and the second incarnation of the spacefaring historical figure The Great Adin, and is consequently given the messianic title Bodanya. As the Bodanya, Ayn is expected to fulfill an ancient prophecy and lead his people into a new age by solving the Great Paradox, a sort of theological issue for the people of Deius. Ayn also happens to be born intersex, with both male and female genitalia. The story follows him from his time as an infant to his early adolescence.

In this future universe, there are ideological divisions among the planets between those who follow religious doctrines and those who strictly follow science. The planets Kri and Ohr are two planets whose people follow science, and as such they are sometime rivals and sometime allies of Deius. The novel’s plot gets going when a meeting of the leaders of these three planets meet, and anti-religious Deiusian extremists attempt to murder Ayn. Ayn escapes with the help of the Ohrian prince, Zin, and adventures and conflict ensue.

The novel’s premise is dynamite. When I started reading it, I immediately began comparing it with Frank Herbert’s Dune for its concept of how religion and cultural divides could continue to shape society even when humanity expands beyond the constraints of our solar system. The beginning of the novel, in my opinion, was its strongest point. Later on though, I thought the novel weakened in some ways. One of Ayn’s mentors is a priest named Pei, and after Ayn and Zin leave Deius he has both a romantic arc and a warrior-training arc, and neither story arc seemed very believable to me based on what the character is like. The friendship between Ayn and Zin also stretched credibility for me. Some aspects of the prose irked as well, specifically use of exclamation points from a third-person omniscient narrator.

But, the novel had its strengths as well. The various settings and otherworldly cultural aspects were described quite well, and with its twists and intrigues and surprises, I wasn’t ever bored with the story. There’s a lot of potential here, not all of which was realized in the first book (which, if I’m not mistaken, was the author’s debut novel), and that gives me hope that the others in the series may expand the novel’s universe and achieve more of its potential while avoiding some of the pitfalls that this novel fell into. With that in mind, I think I will most likely continue with the series and read its second book, The Veil of Truth.

Now, once again, my bit of promo. If you are a fan of fantasy, you can look into my own book, Tales of Cynings Volume I, in print format here or Kindle format here.

New Book Review 33: The General’s Legacy: Inheritance

general 1I’ve been taking a break from blogging and reviews for a little while, but I mean to get back into it now. The next book I’m reviewing is The General’s Legacy: Inheritance by Adrian G. Hilder, the first of the ‘General of Valendo’ series. The series (which so far includes just two books) is high/epic fantasy, set in a medieval-style world of kings and knights and wizards.

As explained in the prologue, the land of Valendo is the neighbor and sometimes enemy of the land of Nearhon. The heroic general Garon once fought against the invading people of Nearhon with the aid of the warrior Quain and the mage Zeivite. The opposing country fought using supernatural monsters called Rippers, summoned by a wicked mage named Magnar. Garon and his companions defeated the invaders and brought peace to the land, and the book’s main narrative begins decades later when Nearhon begins showing signs of new aggression. The heroes of the former war are now gray and elderly veterans, training the new generation for the possibility of another war. The main character is Cory, the grandson of Garon, who becomes romantically involved with Julia, the princess of Nearhon, with the hopes of their union helping to keep the peace between their lands. The story sort of crawls along with that plot for a while, until things pick up when Magnar manages to bewitch a prince of Valendo, Pragius, transforming him into a necromancer who raises an army of burning undead skeleton soldiers to conquer Valendo. This is the most prominent use of magic in the book, and for that I suppose a reader might choose to categorize the book as dark fantasy.

I don’t want to give too serious of spoilers for any of my readers who might want to look into this book later, but one peeve I have with this book is its lack of resolution. It ends with a cliffhanger, and for me the narrative arc felt very incomplete. Readers have different opinions about cliffhangers of course, and some readers wouldn’t be bothered by it. The book had a neat premise for me, and that was a strength for it. Lack of originality is an issue I’ve seen with a lot of indie/self-published fantasy, and this particular book had a story that I haven’t seen before, so I was pleased with that.

One persistent issue I had with the book was the way that it used metaphor and personification. It’s good for writing to be descriptive, but this book used a lot of descriptions that didn’t make very much sense and overall diminished the quality of the book.  There were also a fair number of typoes and editing errors throughout the book. Of course, this happens with self-published work and I’m certainly in no position to condemn.

To wrap this up, I’ll say that The General’s Legacy: Inheritance will appeal to fans of the genre, and is a promising first work for a fantasy series. I found it enjoyable.

Now, once again, my bit of promo. If you are a fan of fantasy, you can look into my own book, Tales of Cynings Volume I, in print format here or Kindle format here.