One of my author friends recommended Ulff’s first book to me with high praise. Apparently, this book was in the works for twenty years, which was intriguing. surely it seemed like the type of epic doorstopper I was clamouring for after reading a lot of shorter books.
Upon reading the first few pages I knew I was in for something special. This is not going to be a standard review. There’s no need to talk about the many different overarching plot points (of which there are many). At its core, the novel deals with the nation of Danastaer being invaded by the nation of Chanastardh. There are POVs from both sides of the conflict, and a great deal of intrigue and betrayal ensues. I’ve read comparisons to Game of Thrones, and perhaps some are valid, but Lehmann is on to something very different in this unique, and deeply personal novel.
While all of Lehman’s characters shine in their own way, without a doubt the cornerstone of the novel is Drangar Ralgon, a Sheppard and mercenary who spends a great deal of the novel as a corpse. (Read the book) Drangar has suffered a great loss in his personal life and he is a deeply conflicted character. He battles his own mind in both a conscious and unconscious state, and as pieces of his backstory are revealed, Lehmann handles his depression with such immense care that he becomes real to us. Everyone has felt loss, and suffering, and like the greatest of tragedies, Lehmann conveys that feeling brilliantly through Drangar’s soliloquized inner monologue.
The novel is also deeply entrenched in lore, as much of it deals with the return of magic via Wizards and an Elven Society banished to its own constructed version of reality. The magic is returning as the Elves are no longer satisfied with their false construct of society and want a return to the real. There’s possession, through “spirit walking”, magical healing factors and a talking Squirrel named Bright Eyes who reads like Russell Brand and often provides comic relief in what is otherwise an extremely heavy and intense story.
This is not an easy book to review, but it is an easy book not only to love, but to obsess over. So much of the novel is entrenched in the ever-changing feel of the author’s multiple POV’s. Between the more grounded invasion and conflict based chapters, the surrealist dark magic related sections, and especially the inner monologues, this is a rich and expansive work. Lehmann writes beautiful prose that is at once, linear and simple and quickly changes to complex, abstract and poetic.
Being part one of a massive five book undertaking, it is clear that this is Drangar’s story, and Drangar is a character so wonderfully fleshed out, and so gracefully exposed that we are willing to patiently await the true revelation of his character. To take the plunge in to Lehmann’s world requires an investment in a well-plotted masterpiece that rewards the reader through its unfolding brilliance and surely does not end with Shattered Dreams. Treat yourself, dear reader. You’ll thank me!
Review by Michael Gruneir
9.1/10 from 1 reviews
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