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on Sep. 24, 2011 :
INTRODUCTION: Here at Fantasy Book Critic we get tens of indie review queries a week, some with the full ebook included, some with samples and I dutifully open all that are not UF or YA but very rarely something hits the special combination of content/style I look for in any book I try. Usually the indies fail on content since there is so much "ancient evil, destined boys/girls" or their science fictional analogs coming in that I almost stopped opening such, but in the few cases a book has an intriguing blurb, the writing style needs also to hit it with me and that is a very subjective thing.
When "A Shore Too Far" popped in the inbox, the blurb below was interesting enough to make me take a look and it turned out that the novel was a first person narration which a bit to my surprise grabbed me from the first paragraph you can also read in the sample linked above.
"Kara Asgrand, daughter of the king, is the greatest military mind of her time, but now a wondrous fleet has approached her people’s shores. When this new people arrive, the visitors’ tale of woe doesn’t add up, and their plea for help may be a prelude to invasion. Kara must decide if her warrior’s instincts are keeping her cautious or are they betraying her and endangering thousands."
"A Shore Too Far" is advertised as the first book in "The Daughters of Damendine" series.
OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: "A Shore Too Far" is a very entertaining series debut which takes place on a secondary world with the usual pseudo-medieval society but with no magic so far. The novel is a first person narration from Kara Asgrand, daughter of the king of Avandi and commander in chief of the army.
Kara is also a rival to her two brothers, Eric, a very able administrator and current ruler of Abrigol, the most important city outside of the capital, and Kollus who is mostly a scholar, though as royalty he also rules a province - one of the conceits here is that in Kara's country the succession is decided by the king stepping down in favor of a successor that may or may not be one of his children - this is really unlikely to work and would lead to countless civil wars as history shows in any society without clear and accepted lines of succession and sometimes even in those, but that's more of a plot device so far to motivate the rivalry and subtext between Kara and her older brother Eric.
When a strange fleet is sighted close to Abringol, Kara summons her fastest cavalry and rides there to strengthen Eric's defenses, while the king and the rest of the army will tae some ten days or more to get there. What follows is a story of first contact between the Avandi and the mysterious strangers that call themselves the Kullobrini and claim they were blown off course to a colonization mission on some remote and less hospitable areas of the continent, while now a sickness developing on their fleet forced them to come ashore in the Avandi kingdom. Any misstep can lead to a deadly confrontation and Kara has to make the decisions as her father puts her unexpectedly in charge of the "alien diplomacy" over her governor brother
The main strength of the novel is in the first person narration of Kara. While the novel is predictable to some extent, the tension is maintained to the end and the pages turn by themselves since you do not want to stop until you find out the implied secrets of the Kullobrini and how things will turn out for both people.
As an added bonus there is some backstory recounted and we understand more about Kara's relationship with her siblings too. In addition to Eric, there are a few notable secondary characters - the Kullobrini leaders, a young ambitious and very wealthy merchant of Abrigol who is an on-and-off flame of Kara, while grizzled veteran Gonnaban plays well the role of the princess' master at arms and all around skeptic.
Overall, A Shore Too Far (A+) is another very promising indie series debut which I recommend for a fast and very enjoyable read. I also want to note that the novel wraps up its main storyline so it's a standalone from this point of view, but of course more is promised in the interesting universe created by the author.
Note: this review has been originally published on Fantasy Book Critic and all the links and references are to be found there
(reviewed within a month of purchase)