Esme’s SPFBO 2017: Shattered Dreams by Ulff Lehmann

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This book was part of Fantasy Factions grouping and has since been eliminated – their review here: http://fantasy-faction.com/2017/spfbo3-the-fifth-five-fall


Plot:

Shattered Dreams is an extremely ambitious debut novel with many different POV’s and plot lines. It’s hard to summarize this kind of book because the plotlines don’t intersect until later on and to talk about some of that would be spoilery.

Drangar, one of the main characters, had been posing as a lone shepherd for a number of years in a backwater town. Mostly keeping to himself, rarely smiling, and never interacting with other people other than to sell wool and mutton to them he’s lived there for several years laying low.

A lords nephew comes to town and starts harassing the village people, mostly focused on a young woman he’s trying to force into bed with him. Drangar steps in and forces the nobleman to back off, and then leaves the inn. The nobleman doesn’t take well to being shut down in public and runs after Drangar with the fight that ensued left the nobleman dead – forcing Drangar to go on the run.

Jesgar, also known as The Hand is a thrill seeker, he loves breaking into peoples houses just to get an adrenaline rush. He doesn’t actually take anything, he doesn’t care much about jewels or other items of value, he just gets a kick out of rummaging around in other peoples homes. He gets recruited by a Chosen to be ‘bait’, the Chosen asks him to let himself be seen sneaking into a nobleman’s house and get himself arrested. The idea is that there are traitors among the upper class of the city who are working on overthrowing the government, and having a ‘thief’ break into one of their houses may force their hand into doing something rash.  The plan kind of works and he’s sent off to go be a spy for the Palace in another city because people are being murdered and cities are falling to the enemy without being under siege – it has to be espionage.

Kalidnar is a Chosen, like Drangar, and has been an advisor to Baron, he’s the one who sets Jesgar on his mission. He’s over a century old because the Chosen don’t age, they’ve given up their mortality to serve the God of Sun and War – it’s an outlawed religion with most of the remaining Chosen going undercover.

Lloreathaoran is an old elf mage who’s living in The Veil of Dreams, and he’s been contacted by spirits and familiars that the tomb the elves built to seal away ancient dark magic is breaking, he has to return to the mortal realm and prevent the Stone of Blood (sacrificial device) and the tomes from getting into the wrong hands.

There are several other pretty large plotlines going on with other characters, but these are the ones that interested me the most – this section is getting long.

Final Score: 8.75/10 

Why: There is so much going on in this book it really impressed me. Having that many moving parts does make it hard to keep track of it all at points –  but when it all comes together it’s very rewarding. The more SFF’s I read the more impressive it becomes when someone sets out to do something crazy complex and manages to pull it off. I think most authors are told their first book shouldn’t have ass loads of POV’s and plotlines, and Ulff was like “naaahhh, Imma do it”. 


Characters:

  • Drangar is kind of older, he’s been out of the army for a while and you’re not sure at first why he’s been disgraced, just that he was driven out a few years before. He’s haunted by things that happened in his past, there’s hints that he caused a lot of pain and he slaughtered villagers young and old during some kind of craze. He hears voices and we don’t know if he’s gone insane or if there’s some kind of spirit or if his dog is talking to him. He put himself at a lot of risk killing the nobleman instead of just minding his own business. He felt that the killing was justice, and not murder since the lordling had been harassing and would continue to harass these people if he wasn’t stopped. He also knows that by doing so he’s put a bounty on his head. He’s a very interesting character, I liked his background and his development as the story went on.
  • Kildanor is a Chosen like Drangar, and takes his loyalties seriously. He’s been an advisor to the Baron for a long time, over 50 years and has served him well and faithfully. He’s trying to figure out why and how cities are falling to sabotage and it’s driving him to work with people he never would have thought of as a friend.
  • Lloreatharon has grown to dislike his own people, he’s extremely fed up in living in a plastic bubble the elves set outside of the realm of mortals to hide themselves in. He’s watching generations of elves grow up in this false world despising the fact they feel no need to know what the real world is like. Despite the horrible circumstances of him returning to the mortal world, he’s probably secretly enjoying it.
  • Ealisaid is introduced later on in the story, she wakes up after being put into hibernation by the Pheonix Wizards, who are all long dead when she’s awoken. She freaks out not knowing what’s going on and is imprisoned before she can do any more damage. She’s been told she’s the last one alive, and at first, she denied it… but soon came to realize they were probably not lying to her and that she’s alone in the world now, awaiting trial for her ‘crimes’ when she awoke. She’s sort of a broken and lonely character to start out with.

Final Score: 8/10

Why: Trying to write a story with this many POV’s is difficult, there isn’t as much page time spent on each character to flesh them out the way a single pov or dual pov can accomplish. However, it can also expand the world, give new perspective and see things through different lenses and in that way it can really enhance the storytelling if done properly. I do feel like I got to know the main characters, the characters with just one or two smaller chapters I didn’t get to know as much – but I found them extremely interesting. Having a squirrel Familiar as a POV was an interesting choice, and made for fun reading despite it not being a ‘fleshed out’ character in the traditional sense. 


World Building:

The Chosen are said to be blessed by the God of Sun and War – they have special abilities that can command people to do as they want. When Drangar encountered the lord in the tavern he commanded him to “behave”, and the lord dropped his sword he was about to use on Drangar. Lesganagh, the God of Sun and War has been an outlawed religion for a few decades.

There’s a thieves guild in the city where The Hand lives, they take out any competition that isn’t linked to them. The Hand never trained with them or paid them any dues, if they find out it could mean trouble for him.

Elves are a fallen culture, humanity doesn’t know why the elves left or what happened to them – and many assume that magic left the world when the elves did.

There’s lots of talk about old wars, The Demon Wars, the Wizard Wars, the Heir Wars – they’ve all left their mark on society and the landscape. Deep and unnatural gouges score the mountainside from the old Wizard Wars.

There are multiple Veils in this world, Veil of Fire was put up by the Dragons to keep them away from the mortals issues. The Veil of Dreams is where the Elves are hiding out…. there are hints at the Realm of Gloom and others. During one of the Wars the humans broke the Veil of Fire and brought dragons into the fighting.

Spirits and familiars are things, as well as ghosts – one of the smaller pov’s is a Squirrel Familiar who works with Lloreathoran.

Final Score: 8.75/10

Why: Most if not all aspects of world building were touched on, geography, history, lore, gods, the culture of the people, etc. Although it could be hard to follow with SO MANY LONG NAMES it was very well done. 


Pacing/Prose/Tone:

The book opens with two children and a dog being murdered, so right from the start you know that this is going to be a grim book. It wasn’t over the top, but this def wasn’t “light” reading.

Pacing Final Score: 6.5/10

Why: Getting into this book took some time, but once I did I had a lot of fun. In the beginning there are just so many POV switches, where the POV’s don’t seem to have anything to do with each other it jarred me, and I lost interest a few times and went to do something else. If you read this book and feel that way, stay persistent! This is a book that rewards a patient reader, once I got to about 40% I was completely invested and then flew through the rest of the book. 

Writing Final Score: 7/10

Why: So, I knew going into this book that the author’s first language is not English, so I was kind of looking for examples of where I could tell. To be frank, if I hadn’t known and wasn’t looking I wouldn’t have been able to tell – it’s extremely impressive to write a book like this in a second language. I’m taking points off mostly for dialogue and editing errors – there were a handful of misplaced !’s midsentence and things like that. 


Originality:

Final Score: 8/10 

Why: This book just had everything, and did it with its own certain twists on common ideas. The religion and culture are completely their own thing, and despite me seeing a lot of ‘evil escaping imprisonment…. evil tomes in the wrong hands’ – there was so much more going on than just that it kept it really entertaining. 


Audience:

  • For people who like complex world building
  • For people who like multi pov
  • For people who can be patient with slow starts to large stories
  • For people who like female pov
  • For people who like non human pov
  • For people who like animal companions
  • For people who like depressed/suicidal pov’s

Wrap Up:

Final Score: 47/60 or 7.83/10 or 4 stars on Goodreads

Will I read the sequel, Shattered Hopes? Yes, I’ve put it on my schedule to read after I’m done with my current schedule.

 

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