The Hollow March by Chris Galford (The Haunted Shadows: Book 1)

8/10 The author's style was perfect in description.

It is a time of upheaval in the Idasian Empire. As religious fervour stirs dissent among the people, and the winter winds loom, thousands gather behind their aging emperor on a march to war.

In the midst of this, young Rurik Matair blunders home with childish notions of revenge, and an unlikely band of sellswords at his back. The third son of a backwater nobleman, Rurik was destined for a life in service to the crown. But when he reached beyond his station, he was banished from his father’s house with nothing to his name. Tired and hunted, he returns after two years abroad.

Yet all is not as it appears. As Idasia’s brutal war threatens to stagnate, old rivalries rekindle. Other players shift through dark games behind the scenes, and old magicks rise against a tottering throne, stirred on by a woman with nothing left…

“Man tames not vengeance; vengeance breaks the man.” - Idasian Proverb

The book started with this proverb, which made me immediately like it. It was all I could do to meet my own deadlines, because every time I went in to read a few pages of this work, I wanted to read more.

This is a well-written book, with the added boon of very few typos. The author’s style was perfect in description, in that I could see in my mind this world he had created instantly, with detail enough to make it real. Here is a passage to illustrate this:

Most of the Empire was not like the Ulneberg. To the north, warhorses streamed across well-laid and well-travelled paths, and wealthy caravans roamed from city to city, seeking to purvey the guilds’ trades. Farms littered a stripped and open countryside, as flat as a Karnush woman’s chest. However, this land suffered from a curious benefit: War. As the Empire pressed its manifest borders to north and south and west, the continual prospect of war had left this section of the Ulneberg largely untouched. The problem was the Kingdom of Surin to the east, a nation once lofty, now reduced to poverty and ruin.

I do caution that it takes a while for this book to get going, after the initial thrill of the prologue. It wasn’t until page 80, when one of the characters is brought in for questioning, that the book ramped back up to that level. Most of this first section is background on the main characters and information on their relationships to one another. There are also long lapses in the action of the book where flashbacks tell more background, and past events. These passages do make the book lag between character’s dialogue, so when one character is responding to a question on the previous page asked by another character, the reader may need to go back to the last dialogue to find out just what was asked.

I liked Essa and Voren. Rurik was something of a typical medieval “jock” and I didn’t like him as much, especially with his childish actions. If my father wanted me dead, I’d take a lot more care about my actions and not be getting drunk so often, or acting flippant with my guardian’s commands. The scene of Ros and Fallit was particularly moving

At 460 pages, this book is long. I think there are several passages that could have been cut from it or shortened, to make the action flow a little more smoothly and be more understandable. But compared with other fantasy books, this is in keeping with the genre. And I can’t fault the writing style, which I loved.

The book leaves off with many threads left hanging, making me think there may be a sequel.

Overall opinion: Good read!

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Chris Galford's The Haunted Shadows series

The Hollow March

The Haunted Shadows: Book 1

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