Shattered Sands by W G Saraband #SPFBO
Shattered Sands by W G Saraband is one of my SPFBO books (details here).
The story sets off at a fairly brisk pace as we are introduced to the leading characters. We have two females – Tamazi and Sabra. Tamazi is a slave and at the start of the book her master, the Great Vizier of Rilmaaqish is taken with Tamazi the only surviving witness. A fact that leads to her imprisonment. We then meet up with Sabra, a young woman who not only experiences a very unpleasant attack on her way home but then finds her father murdered and her home destroyed. As you can see, within but a few chapters we have a very dramatic start to the story.
We have a prison break with a character known as Asmun being rescued from his life long imprisonment. At the same time, Sarati, a Magistrate at the college assembly is being manipulated into an unwanted marriage by one of the Mages who also serves on the assembly. And, finally we make the acquaintance of Festus, an Ambassador of the Werde Empire who is based out in Rilmaaqish. This is an unhappy posting for Festus however he certainly doesn’t anticipate the sequence of events that leave him penniless and injured making his way across the desert to try and return to his family.
The rest of the story follows these characters on their strange journeys and gradually reveal a country on the brink of war, political backstabbing and maneuvering and the rise once again of magic with the signs indicating the unfortunate involvement of necromancy and the dark arts.
The setting has a middle eastern feel with Rilmaaqish having a very busy and heavily populated feel. Crowded streets, bustling bazaars, deserts and oasis extend beyond the City boundaries. There is a rich history which is still unfolding even as this story concludes. It appears that magic was once very real but misuse led to it’s demise. However, there is change in the air, signs and portents that could spell a return to a more magical period. There is a good deal of instability with political posturing and back stabbing as the different factions seek to gain more control and on top of that an underground movement by the commoners who are tired of being downtrodden and are poised on the edge of rebellion.
Overall I think this is a very intriguing tale with some interesting ideas. Djinns, huge scorpions, dark magic and other fantastical elements that, all taken together, make for an entertaining read.
In terms of criticisms. Well the main problem I had with the book was with certain elements of the writing style. There were quite a number of typos throughout the book which is slightly irritating but not enough to overly concern me. My real issue stemmed more from the use of certain phrases, at times the writing would either bring me up short because it seemed unlikely or would pull me out of the story completely in a bit of an irritating fashion. There was also a certain element in the writing that seemed to be trying to be two things at once – in one respect the writing would in one moment be quite flowery and descriptive and have an almost old school feel about it but then in the next would be a bit jarringly crude and dark. The two just didn’t seem to sit well together for me and that coupled with a general bleakness to the story with very little in the way of light relief had the effect of turning this into more of a 3 than a 4 star read.
I have to hand it to the author – he’s come up with a very interesting story which ends with a promise of more goodness yet to come. It’s a shame that the above issues detracted a little from the story for me personally. I don’t mean to be overly critical and I would probably still read the next instalment to see if the same issues remain but for this particular book I think a little more editing would have made quite a difference.