Release Date: April 24, 2018
Publisher: Dancing Star Press
“General Daynja Édo is a legend: head of the Boorhian Empire’s military and possessor of a mask of invulnerability. She has raised her Shadow Army of seven assassins from childhood. But mounting disillusionment over a life of brutality, a petulant emperor, and prodding from The Artful Djinni force her to defy orders for the first time in her thirty year career. When the empire decides they no longer need Édo if they can get the mask, she must face the monsters of her own making and the legacy they’ve turned against her.” (via Goodreads)
One of my favorite things about twitter is the direct connection with creatives. I can’t tell you how many movies, tv shows, podcasts, comics, and of course books I’ve found because some bit of excited promo has crossed my timeline. This is precisely how I first found out about L.D. Lewis’ compelling novella A Ruin of Shadows. POC cast? Check! Tons of glorious queerness? Check! Military action/fantasy? Check, check, check!
Now, there are some issues with character development, particularly with the Djinni and the Shadows. We don’t really get to know them as people. They need a more development in order to really feel the impact of their actions and conversations with Édo. It’s hard to feel the betrayal when we don’t know much about the betrayers. Édo is the only character with a real arc, but it’s a great one. She alone is responsible for saving her nation. It’s her knowledge, armor, and training that created the system with which her empire maintains its dominance. Her king knows she holds enough power to topple the whole system, so watching her indifference shift into ambivalence is intriguing.
I could’ve also used a deeper dive into the world. Lewis does a solid job at worldbuilding. I understand what the current conflict is and how they got there, but the world she set up is so interesting that I wish there was more. This isn’t a complaint, actually. I wanted to spend more time exploring this unique world, the creepy parasite-like invaders, and the political machinations motivating Édo’s violent job.
A Ruin of Shadows was an impulse buy, and could not have made a better choice. At only 66 pages, it’s a quick read, made even quicker because it’s really hard to set down. The pace is speedy, and the tension rarely lets up. It takes a violent turn toward the end, but the resolution is well-earned.
The black gate opened as General Édo and the Shadows approached. Cheering crowds already lined the avenue. She didn’t know how they knew to assemble because she was always on the other side of the gate when they did. The city still smelled of dew and morning coffee and prayer-burnt herbs. Petals and whole blossoms in every color were flung into the road before the rhinos. Their riders remained stoic, forward-looking, as if they were marble busts of themselves and not wholly revered flesh. Small children showed off paper and tree bark masks of their own and waved frantically to get the General’s attention to flaunt them. By ten years of age, most of them would be small soldiers beginning their training on the other side of the inner gate.
Do the world a favor and buy this book from your local indie bookstore or get it from your public library.