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A first glimpse into an innovative and unusual world

The Sun Shard (Flint and Steel, Fire and Shadow. Book 1) - Rob Bayliss

Sun Shard, by Rob Bayliss, is a fantasy novel set in a world with a level of technology roughly like that of the English Civil War. There are hand to hand edged weapons, alongside moderately reliable muskets. But there are also giant beasts reminiscent of those which our Stone Age ancestors had to confront. There is also a magical component, important to the storyline but practiced only by a handful of people. The links between magic, religion and spirituality are teasingly opened up as the book proceeds, but remain ambiguous for later books to develop.


Sun Shard is only part one in the series, but happily it is self contained as a book, and achieves closure on the central crisis raised. In its course, we are introduced to the major people-groups, beginning with a rather feudal rural group and moving progressively onto larger and more urbanised scales.


We mainly follow the actions of one of these rural individuals. He starts the book as a skilled but unimportant scout, and through both force of circumstance and personal choice becomes increasingly crucial to events. In the process, he comes to reevaluate the nature of the conflict he is caught up in, and begins to appreciate the real enemies. I am sure that this process will continue in subsequent books.


The world is very male dominated. There is only one female character who is important to the plot, and other women are either idealised, or reduced to sex objects for the soldiers and leaders. It's a difficult world to live in for both men and women, unless a person can find the right niche and the right group of companions.


The plot drives along in a brisk way. There are battles on land and sea, in which intelligent use of technology and resources is as important as pure force. But alongside that, the slowly opening insights into the deeper moral struggle provide a parallel plot alongside the fighting which adds considerably to the interest of the book. There are a number of points where parallel actions are going on in different locations, but any possible confusion is avoided by clear exposition.


On a technical level there are some typos which distract from the reading, especially around the use of apostrophes. Also, some of the longer sentences could do with more use of commas to help navigate through them. All of these could be caught with another editing sweep through the text, and some people will not mind the slips as they race through the pages.


In short, an interesting and involving world, with a coherent inner logic and increasing insights into a deeper moral and spiritual plane. The book ends with a short teaser for the next book in the series.