Shards of History
by Rebecca Roland
Reviewed by Adria Laycraft
Shards of History is a passionate tale that will engage both young adults and more weathered fantasy readers. Author Rebecca Roland brings us an exciting new fantasy world where using magic burns your memories away, fierce flying creatures are more than they seem, and the ultimate sacrifice is the price of magical protection.
In this story characters reveal their depths slowly, and Roland even allows the antagonists to have their own story arc. However, readers barely have time to catch their breath between the escapades of our heroine Malia, and will cheer on this feisty protagonist as she struggles to prevent a senseless war while battling her own prejudices and preconceptions. The story propels the reader with high conflict that mostly makes sense, drawing us along willingly on Malia's quest.
Malia's people are the Taakwa, and they fear the flying beasts of the cliffs known as Jeguduns. Meanwhile a much graver threat resides in the Outsiders gathering an army to invade the valley. Roland drives the stakes ever higher as the truth of Malia's situation is revealed, creating a page-turner that I didn't want to put down.
The cultural world-building Roland did for Malia's people was perhaps my favorite part of this book. Here in this matriarchal society a woman can put a man's things out the door if she feels mistreated in any way, and yet Malia still has to fight for her freedom and independence, still has to work against those who would use her for her power, and still has to overcome her own issues of self-doubt to find the truth. It reminds me of LeGuin's Always Coming Home in this way.
The Taakwa, Jeguduns, and Outsiders are all fully developed and unique from each other. Within each race we get believable 'bad guys' that are truly frightening. On top of this great foundation of world-building we enjoy solid character development where our protagonist has to face her darkest demons, be braver than everyone else, and win the day through her own efforts and sacrifice. Malia, despite her youth and inexperience, is a true leader and proves it time and again, making her easy to root for. Meanwhile her companions are just as likable and believable without stealing the show.
Roland, an Odyssey graduate who writes both fantasy and horror, has also compiled a collection of stories in the same world called The King of Ash and Bones, and Other Stories. This four-story collection explores, among other things, the life of exile Rasmus, digging deeper into the culture of the Taakwa and their practice of exiling those who do not conform to established belief systems.
Shards of History is published by World Weaver Press, an exciting small press that supports new authors of fantasy. They obviously take pride in their work, creating strong cover art and solid promotional efforts.
In short, Shards of History contains fabulous world-building, believable characters, high action, and captivating creatures. This is a read I'd highly recommend for readers of fantasy looking for something completely new to devour.
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