Monday, September 3, 2012

Book Review: The Duchess of the Shallows

The life of an orphaned bread girl named Duchess changes when a mysterious mark comes into her possession and along with it a chance to be initiated into a secret society within the fog-shrouded city of Rodaas.

The Duchess of the Shallows is a fantasy novel written by Neil McGarry and Daniel Ravipinto. It includes the cover and interior illustrations by Amy Houser.

Whenever I read novels in the fantasy genre, it is always a challenge to see how the authors will lay things out. It is highly important for them to establish the setting for the readers, to craft the world-stage upon which their characters will play. The importance of this goes back to my college days of playing Advanced Dungeons and Dragons every Saturday during the mid-80’s. If the world is well-thought out and consistently presented, a better experience is had.

McGarry and Ravipinto completely understand that. Through out the course of the book, we get to understand how Rodaas is laid out in both the physical and societal senses. We see how politics and religion come in to play as Duchess moves through her world to accomplish her goals. The key that the authors here remember is not to beat the reader over the head with volumes of details in one shot. They are doled out as the story requires, via memories by the main character or as a scene is established. This goes a long way to keeping me interested as a reader.

The book is also very character-focused as Duchess, with the help of her close friend Lysander, attempts to pull off a daring task for someone so young. I think smart and sophisticated teen readers will find the heroine relatable. The other supporting characters like the shopkeeper Hector, the brothel-maven Minette and the powerful Uncle Cornelius are too multi-layered and not stereotypical. This too kept me more invested in the story.

The Duchess of the Shallows is available from Peccable Productions, an independent publishing group. Besides being offered in a variety of digital formats (Kindle, Nook, etc.), one can also order a print-to-order physical copy. You can even obtain a few free sample chapters from their website (click here).

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