No Shade, Plenty of Darkness

Finally! Things can get back to normal around here. Me, being geeky. You, ROTFL at my amazing wit. Admiring my incredible insight into literature and geekdom and whatever else I have bamboozled you into believing I am an expert of.

But first, a quick thank you to everyone that retweeted, reposted, bought, borrowed, stole (okay, maybe not you guys) my just wrapped up Kindle Countdown for Crimson Son. More readers, more reviews, more fun. I can’t thank you enough for all the support you’ve given my solo-flight self over these past six months.

The toughest thing for any book is being found. The market is awash with books, self and traditionally published. Being seen and keeping your head above water, is tough. My sales ranking chart looks like an EKG hooked to a hamster in a wheel. Only rarely do books of any publishing type take off on a steep upward curve never to see the ground again. Discoverability is hard work and I’m here to help.

Century_of_Sand_RuzI’ve continued down my reading list of notable self-published books, happily stolen from Jefferson Smith over at Immerse or Die, with Century of Sand by Christopher Ruz.

To start, I was blown away by the quality of the writing. When I read the author’s note at the end, it wasn’t a shock that Ruz had an honorable mention in Writer’s of the Future under his belt. You could tell with each word that here was a author that took the craft seriously.

There is a story within a story here. A soldier and his mute daughter travel across a desert landscape to find an ancient power to protect them from their pursuer. The soldier has stolen two precious things from the Imperial Magician: a demon’s heart and his own daughter who’d been in the Magician’s very questionable care. Along the way, the soldier reveals to his daughter the secret surrounding their flight.

The prose is riveting and the descriptions rarely detract from the action or add more than is necessary. Yet everything is conveyed in a vivid style and you get a real sense of place and mystery as events unfold. The desert lands where they seek sanctuary are bleak and unforgiving.

These scenes where Richard and Ana encounter the scattered tribes run by warlords, mad priests and wary strangers are my favorite parts of the book. The bond shared by the two characters is well-developed and their sense of urgency is palpable on the page. The action is swift and brutal and the atmosphere is perfect.

Interlaced with the story of Richard and Ana, is a tale about another soldier who traveled alongside the Magician and became his lover. Parkin’s tale is relayed to Ana by Richard as they cross the desert in search of a way to stop the Magician. This second story dovetails nicely with the main plot in the end and adds an interesting twist to the big reveal.

My only complaint was a bit of an uneven experience with the story’s protagonist, Richard. At times, I couldn’t quite understand his motivations and I had trouble getting a feel for his character. His relationship with a warlord ally later in the book often tread over the same ground and there felt like that unevenness crept into the overall story. Ruz’s plotting seemed at his best when things were desolate and bleak and the intrigue surrounding their final destination occasionally felt rushed, or forced.

None of that nitpicking however would prevent me from recommending Century of Sand to any fantasy reader, especially those looking for fantasy of a darker, grittier variety. Century is an excellent example of how self-published works can easily meet or, in fact, exceed traditionally published standards. The book is well worth your time and I’ll definitely be downloading the sequel, The Ragged Lord and eagerly waiting book three.

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