Disclaimer: I won this in a Booklikes giveaway. Honest review anyway.
Long train ride went by in a flash with a good book to read, and it is good. Originally written as a collaborative serial by nine authors, it maintains a surprisingly consistent authorial voice (with only one short chapter jumping out as a little jarring.) That is already more than a lot of individual authors can manage, but it's got plenty to recommend it beyond that.
Proper review to come when I am not making myself insane typing on a tablet.
And now with proper(ish) review goodness added!
Is late. Kid has flu. Can't sleep cos of the bizarre noises she is making - at one point when she was napping on the sofa, she coughed so hard the cat fell off her and hissed. She however, is sleeping like a log right through it all. And so now is an excellent time to write a proper review of this. That said, I have sampled daughter's cough medicine, and also some glögg (swedish spiced christmas wine) so this will be a bit bullety, and possibly incoherent.
Summary: This is set in a post-economic breakdown of what appears to be the entire world, I'm not sure (I'm not sure the characters even know), with rampant plagues and rampant cops and military between them keeping the populace down and hyper-inflation up. Teenager Alexis finds herself in a horrible situation after a shoplifting attempt gone wrong, as her brother is gunned down in front of her by said rampant cops, and she's grabbed and facing far worse treatment. Only to be rescued by a pair of street thieves and granted entrance to an underground (literally) community full of the desperate and downtrodden, just like her, nicknamed the shadows. And while she's learning her way around and learning how to earn her keep, she stumbles onto a conspiracy that may involve her past, and just might set the people in the shadows all free.
- As mentioned, there is a really smooth flow between authors here, and by a few chapters in, I wasn't even looking at who wrote what anymore. That, in my book, is a real success. I can think of shared world anthologies that couldn't hold it together anywhere near this well, and this isn't just a shared world, it's a coherent single plot.
- The world of the Shadows is well done. It reminded me somehow of Jeremiah, even though it was a very different situation, and everyone wasn't under the age of 30.
- There are three separate major sub plots going on, that connect towards the end, and that is done remarkably well. Particularly the chronology, when you realise they are taking place in slightly different time frames, so events playing out in one, have already affected one of the others. I've seen so many books try to pull that off, and it rarely succeeds (and to be honest, it works a lot better with one of the sub plots than the other, but it's still very successful.)
- A lot of the side characters are well fleshed out, given their own agenda, their own motivation. There's only a couple of throwaway characters, and one that we get to know entirely from other characters talking about him, because I don't think he actually gets any dialogue - which is an interesting tactic that just occurred to me. Not sure if that bit should be in this list or the one below.
- It's got a good solid ending. With a door wide open to at least a couple of directions for sequels, but not a cliffhanger in sight. It's such a relief not to be cliff-hung. Yay.
- Despite being a book chock full of teenagers and kids in their 20's, there are no love triangles. Well, there's sort of one, but it's cleared up and resolved, and it's not a "I can't decide between those two" joy killer love triangle, more a "I think I love that guy, and boy I should have said so before the cute new girl showed up".
What didn't work so much:
- Chapter 2. Notably, the only one I spotted that's anonymous. It comes with a content warning, but that wasn't the problem. It's that the voice is off, the language is wrong, the dialogue is... just off. It has a quite different flow to the first chapter and since it is chapter two, I was left wondering if each new author was going to be so radically different.
- There's a bit of a large coincidence at the heart of the plot - however, it's foreshadowed some (but not too much), so it's not a total deus ex machina. Minor quibble only - coincidences are the gas that most novels run on, if we're honest about it.
- The main character, Alexis, comes off a bit flat emotionally in the beginning. I got over this, because, someone having seen so much loss in so short a time probably would be a bit numb. But we don't really find out just how much loss she's seen until later, so I would have either played up her grief a little, or played up her numbness so it was on purpose. It does make sense later in the story though, so I'm saying this more for anyone looking at a sample and thinking "cold-hearted bitch".
- One of the MC's (Jack) is quite a man of mystery, but I just didn't really connected with him. I think that's my failing more than the book, the quiet but charismatic tough guy routine doesn't do it for me, never has. Fletch's angsty smartass bad boy on the other hand...
- Everyone keeps calling Fly a bitch - and I thought she was kind of sweet.
Ok, so there are a few issues, but other than the chapter of doom, it's a good solid read. And I'd definitely be interested in more stories set in this world.