|August 2016; Dark Serpent/Ravenswood Publishing;|
9781535327077; ebook & print (402 pages);
dark fantasy; a free book was provided for this review
Eric Slade, a former Navy SEAL turned TV celebrity, was tasked with taking a team of scientists into a war torn area to look for evidence of strange happenings that resulted in a Neanderthal wearing ancient Roman armor attacking a team of soldiers. Unfortunately, the team is caught up in a rift in space and time. Trapped in a different dimension and trying to survive, ultimately he and the anthropologist Dr. Anna Fayne are the only two survivors of the expedition. They are soon involved in a conflict much bigger than the two of them: a wizard with an army of undead fighting a Neanderthal queen and her tribes for hidden artifacts. These artifacts could control the Eye of the Storm, the swirling mass of black fire that had brought all of them to that dimension. It's dangerous for everyone involved, and no one truly knows who to trust.
So much is happening in this book. There is the political intrigue within the Neanderthal court, and all of the jockeying for position that would come with the ascension of a new sovereign, as well as behind the scenes machinations from people that the Neanderthals had enslaved. Then there are the Estrucians, who for all intents and purposes had been turned into zombies fueled by the black fire.
The story is cut into short chapters with different sections, and some of the transitions between sections feel abrupt. There are mentions of time passing between the sections, and the events in between are glossed over. Characterization is a bit thin in the beginning, but once the cast of characters thins out a bit, it's easier to track them and how they develop.
Of course, our main characters are embroiled in the war and political machinations right away, but it also seems very contrived on the wizard's end. He had advisors that he worked with for years. Why would he suddenly take a shine to a stranger? It makes sense why Eric would ultimately be trusted, as he saved the Queen's life and helped kill one of the leaders of the coup. There are a lot of coincidences for the sake of plot, but they're easy to overlook while reading. Minor spelling errors are present (peek instead of peak, for example) but, for the most part, aren't jarring. The ending seemed a bit abrupt, but it did make sense to the story.
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MK French, reviewer. Born and raised in New York City, M.K. started writing stories when very young, dreaming of different worlds and places to visit. She always had an interest in folklore, fairy tales, and the macabre, which has definitely influenced her work. She currently lives in the Midwest with her husband, three young children, and golden retriever.
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