Esmes Indie Highlights/SPFBO: The Shattered Orb by Samuel E Green

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The Shattered Orb is part of the Booknest.eu grouping and was picked as one of the semi finalists, I think Booknest is getting closer to picking their finalist so I’ll be interested to see how this turns out – I’ve been working my way through their semifinal picks and enjoying myself a lot.


Plot:

In this world the people believe in both the Old Gods and the New Gods, and there are temples and groups of people devoted to both. The New Gods are called Guardians, and they seem to be the more popular than the Old Gods because they are more visible to the people, the New Gods are thought to live in special orbs, and each city gets a different orb that belongs to a different god. As long as the orbs are whole and in place at their shrine, the city it guards remains safe.

Someone has come to Indham and shattered the orb of Aern that was the protector of Aernheim. A giant was sighted at the shrine where the orb was shattered, possibly killing the god Aern.

The leaders of Indham are at a crossroads on how to decide with the god possibly being killed, wards are put up, other realms are being appealed to, and preparations are being made for the wraiths eventual arrival.

The plot mostly focuses on how to save this town from destruction trying different methods and strategies, and also trying to figure out who sabotaged the god and why.


 

Characters:

There are a fair amount of characters introduced rather quickly, but because they were all somehow related to one another it wasn’t too overwhelming.

  • Idmear – High Priest who works in The Spire, he employs Fatherless to help him with his duties and is overall a grey character that’s rather mysterious. He has secret ties to others in the book and it all comes out slowly over the course of the book. The Spire is the building he lives in that’s also bound to him, and The Spire has been known to change shape and become more dangerous if he’s in a foul mood.
  • Edoma – Mother Superior of the Daughters of Enlil, she runs one of the covens devoted to the god Enlil, another character shrouded in mystery. We know she fled here from the Scorched Lands and has mysterious ties to magic and mages. For much of the book it’s unclear how much she knows about the wraiths, orbs and magic. She has a mysterious past and it’s eluded that she arrived in Indham for treacherous reasons speaking vaguely about a mission she didn’t complete, and then swearing never to fulfill.
  • Hiroc – one of the twin brothers in the story, a Fatherless, (which is a term for refugees from the north fleeing through The Scorched Lands) Families arrived after a disaster in the north, the adults mostly insane and the children left parent-less. Interesting connection with the gods and other characters in the book.
  • Alfric – one of the twin brothers, he’s training to be a warrior which is a rare thing for a Fatherless, much larger than most people, pretty daring, outgoing, most women find him attractive.
  • Fryda – a Daughter of Enlin, dating Alfric. She makes a lot of rash decisions especially when under duress, head strong and stubborn as well, she doesn’t always do what she was asked to do, or warned not to do.

 

Worldbuilding:

We don’t get a ton of city names, kings names, lords and ladies or that type of thing, this was a bit more atmospheric in its world building that focused more on intimate details about the city bringing it to life rather focusing on where all the neighboring kingdoms are and who ruled them. (There is mention of it, but it’s not the focus)

This is a pretty creepy world, the wraiths themselves are terrifying, but they can possess you and turn you into a Skinwalker. Think exorcism stuff with Skinwalkers. They can bend over backwards and run back and forth on their hands and toes, their mouths sometimes split open revealing nasty ass teeth. Skinwalkers are ways for Wraiths to interact with the physical realm and once you get possessed there’s no going back.

Wards can be used as a defense against these sorts of attacks, but they don’t last long, they have to be reinforced almost daily for strong wraiths.

All magic requires blood/sacrifice and runes, additionally, there is no magic without cost – you always have to pay with lifesoul or spiritsoul. Different kinds of blood hold different levels of strength, with humans being medium strength, lambs being low strength, and dragons being high strength. There are other types of sacrifices that can be made that are darker and more powerful still but no one wants to use them.

There are two classes of mages, Devoted and Talented and they can do different things, Devoteds come along much later in the book.

There are dragons in this world, but most of its off page discussion of dragons so I’m not sure if it counts for the dragon square for bingo.  Dragons can be forced to bend to peoples will through Suppression Stones, and it’s considered a black magic that’s condemned and evil, there’s a side plot for one of the characters revolving around this topic.


 

Pacing/Prose/tone:

The prose was pretty fast paced, I got through the book fairly quickly. There wasn’t much in the way of flowery writing which helped speed everything along nicely. Since the book is only about 320 pages I didn’t think there was a slog or any unnecessary or bulky bits of the story, it was pretty tightly told and although there wasn’t a terrible amount of action in the book, there was tons of mystery and intrigue to keep you turning pages.

The tone was sort of on the bleaker side, there weren’t any funny characters or comic relief types. There wasn’t any snarky dialogue or witty comebacks, everyone was pretty serious in the book given the rather dire situation they were all in. There were monsters, murder, blood magic and gore.


 

Audience:

  • For people who like multi POV
  • For people who like darker/bleaker stories
  • For people who like blood magic/mages
  • For people who like monsters/wraiths/demonic possessions
  • For people who like suspense and mystery
  • For people old school mysterious magic

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