The first chapter of any novel makes promises to the reader. The first chapter of Shattered Dreams by Ulff Lehmann promises that this will be a book where nothing is held sacred, that anything and anyone is fair game to ravage and defile. I’m not sure those promises held true throughout the whole of the book, but I did enjoy Shattered Dreams enormously – much better than I would have if the novel had ended as hopelessly as I’d feared it would.
I was happily surprised to find this a well-rendered story of tragic romance and a battered hero’s quest for redemption.
Enter the hero, Drangar Ralgon. Possibly a murderer. Possibly a victim. For most of the book, we’re left to wonder—all we know is that he thinks he killed his beloved some years before, an act which destroyed his life and set him on a path of self-destruction. If that wasn’t enough of a burden, this self-loathing warrior becomes the target of a series of brutal attacks that threaten to destroy him, body and soul.
This is a story that benefits from multiple story arcs, and Drangar’s is just one. We also meet two very strong female characters, the wizardess Ealisaid and the warrior Anne Cirrain. There is also a large and diverse supporting cast: priests, elves, sentient squirrels (whom I loved!), demons, demonologists – you get the idea. This is a richly populated world.
The only criticism I have is the story could have benefitted from a little more world building, but that I assume will be delivered in the sequel. Otherwise, the book flowed very well. It was well-edited and well-written, with a good pace and solid characterization. The main character’s physical and mental anguish drew me in and kept me flipping pages. There was a good amount of mystery built into the plot also served to keep the suspense elevated.
I would highly recommend Shattered dreams to adult fans of dark fantasy.
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