Monday, October 8, 2018

Review: Shattered Dreams by Ulff Lehmann

Shattered Dreams (Light in the Dark Book 1) by Ulff Lehmann
Crossroad Press, 2018
413 pages. Ebook.

About Shattered Dreams:

"Epic Fantasy filled to the brim with Grimdark Reality 

If one looks too long into the abyss, the abyss looks back. Drangar Ralgon has been avoiding the abyss's gaze for far too long and now he turns to face it. 

For a hundred years the young kingdom of Danastaer has thrived in peace. Now their northern neighbor, mighty Chanastardh, has begun a cunning invasion. Thrust into events far beyond his control, the mercenary Drangar Ralgon flees his solitary life as a shepherd to evade the coming war and take responsibility for his crimes. In Dunthiochagh, Danastaer's oldest city, the holy warrior Kildanor uncovers the enemy's plans for invasion. As ancient forces reach forth to shape the world once more, the sorceress Ealisaid wakes from a century of hibernation only to realize the Dunthiochagh she knew is no more. Magic, believed long gone, returns, and with it comes an elven wizard sent to recover a dangerous secret."

Shattered Dreams is an epic, unrelenting novel that is filled to the brim with interesting characters, a complex plot, and incredibly drawn world-building. I was drawn in from the very first chapter, and the first chapter is also what showed me that Lehmann would hold nothing back from his storytelling and that cruelty and a grim reality was going to be the centerpiece of this book. There is so much going on in this book that it'd be hard for me to try to summarize anything, so let's just jump into the review.

The worldbuilding in Shattered Dreams is where Lehmann excels the most. The strongest aspect of the culture in this book is easily the religion that Lehmann created. It is so in-depth and expansive that it brings everything into perspective and helps to explain the various ways of life of characters and groups in the story. It really felt as though this were an authentic world with people living lives all over, with regular things happening. Often there are high fantasy books where the descriptions stay solely on the protagonists and it is easy to forget that there is a whole rest of the world out there--not so with Shattered Dreams, which made me enjoy this book even more.

There is a rather large cast of characters, and because of that I will only mention a few: Drangar, Kildanor (a Chosen), and Ealisaid. Many of the characters stood out to me, but these three really made some of the biggest impressions. Drangar is sort a 'hero by necessity,' despite the fact that he is not really an overly heroic character. He used to have a more exciting life, but now he is living a mercenary life as a shepherd and is unwillingly forced back into the thick of things. Kildanor is basically what I would describe as a war machine who has abilities far above what any regular man can do. Kildanor is essentially the poster child for loyalty and takes the utmost care with what he is tasked to do. Elisaid is a sorceress who awakens from a sleep that has lasted over a hundred years and discovers that the land she once knew is no longer there.

I thought all of the characters were developed well and had very distinct personalities that set them apart from one another. Drangar in particular stood out to me was a unique character that struggled with what he wanted to do and what he was forced to do, and I loved getting to know him more in this book .Kildanor and Ealisaid were also both characters that stood out to me for their one of a kind attitudes. Most all of these characters are on the grey scale and can't really be called solely good or evil, which is something that I often enjoy in fantasy. It really felt like Lehmann knew his characters and put real life into them, which in turn made for a more fleshed-out story that was easy to sink into.

I found the pacing to be mostly spot-on throughout the entire book as well. It is a slower paced novel that does require a lot of focus and attention, but it's not a boring novel by any means--it is simply one that has a lot to discover and unpack, and therefore it's not one to rush through. This book has a very full prose with so much to explore and I loved doing it. It also has a bleak, grim--almost brooding--atmosphere that permeates pretty much the entire book. There were, thankfully, a few moments of humor and irony that I always love in these dark books that helped keep everything bearable enough and not too relentlessly dark.

The only real issue I had were with the names, because boy are there some tough names to pronounce! I appreciated that Lehmann provided some pronunciation tips and information at the beginning of the book, but I still stumbled over quite a few of them. I also had a slightly difficult time keeping track of some of the various characters/locations/groups/etc., so some sort of guide at the beginning or back may have beneficial for a book of this size and nature.

Overall, I've given Shattered Dreams 4.25 stars! I really had a great time reading this bleak tome and do look forward to reading the next one. I recommend this to anyone who likes some dark fantasy that follows a lot of characters and has a great deal of detail.

Buy the book: Amazon

*I received a copy of Shattered Dreams courtesy of the author in exchange for an honest review. This has no effect on my rating or enjoyment of the novel. This review is part of TBRindr!*

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