Book Review: Shardfall by Paul E. Horsman

I have always enjoyed Norse Mythology--and am slowly becoming a fan of fantasy and science fiction as well.  Since Shardfall by Paul E. Horsman offers magical fantasy set in an ancient Norse time, I was excited to review this book.  What did I think of Shardfall?

I received a complimentary copy of the book for use in this review and I may receive slight compensation from affiliate links within this post.

A quick summary of Shardfall by Paul E. Horsman.  Muus is only a thrall, a chattel without rights, but he knows the small, blue shard he picked up belongs to him alone. Kjelle, heir to the Lord of a rich mininghold, is strong, and covetous of his thrall's tantalizing find. The one's greed causes an avalanche that leaves both young men marooned on an icy mountain slope. The other's commonsense saves their lives from cold and starvation. Now the antagonists are bound together on a danger-laden journey to a lost and burning land, where Muus needs to connect the skyshard to the Kalmanir, the standing stone that is the world’s fount of all magic. The Kalmanir's time is almost up and it urgently needs to be replenished before the magic of Gods and men runs out. The two antagonists have to learn to trust each other, for all around them, enemies abound. Rebels threaten both the kingdom and Kjelle's holding, and a tribe of mad idolaters is trying to recall the banned primordial Old Gods. Even more imminent is Muus' danger, for it comes from nearby, from the shard itself. Muus is the only one person in the world who can wield the powerful skyshard. Will he succeed with Kjelle's help to reach the standing stone before the world's magic dies? Shardfall is an epic, non-gritty journey through a wild, snowy land. Each of the four main characters, Muus, Kjelle, the young wisewoman Birthe with her baby son BuĂ­ and the naive Tuuri, who serves the enemy, will have to overcome not only the dangers of their journey, but also their own shortcomings.

Shardfall offers a unique twist to modern fantasy tales.  Shardfall is much more than just another book detailing a harrowing journey to save magic for the good of the world.  Shardfall is a unique blend of history, mythology and mystical, science fiction.  The author pulls readers into the distant time and lands of Kjelle and Muus--where their social classes left them unlikely allies in the ensuing good vs. evil battles.  The joining of ancient history and mythology with the more modern challenge to "save magic" and the world creates something just different enough to appeal to a broader audience. 

Shardfall's characters lead readers on a fast paced adventure.  As the scenes change throughout the book, each of the four main characters--and a host of supporting characters--share a bit of the limelight as Horsman develops the plot.  The action moves quickly from the very beginning with characters, both strong and weak, guiding the events.

Would I recommend Shardfall?  Shardfall is the first book in Horsman's Shardheld Saga.  I think both fantasy/science fiction fans and mythology/historical fiction fans alike would enjoy the style of the book.  There were a few times when I found myself slowed by unfamiliar terms or titles--but, I was able to quickly "catch up" as the author descriptively moved through the chapter or scene.  I enjoyed the book and look forward to the next in the series. 

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About the Author:

Paul E (Erik) Horsman (1952) Lives in Roosendaal, The Netherlands. I was born in the year 1952, in the Dutch town of Bussum, a sleepy, well-to-do place that was home to many artists, musicians, writers and publishers. As my family were neither artists nor well-to-do, we moved when I was nine. When I was seventeen, I started my career as paperclip counter with a worldwide Dutch producer of baby food. After some months, I was finished counting, and I looked around for something more interesting. A love of books drove me to work in a small bookstore in Rotterdam. An ancient establishment, since 1837, in an old building just too far away from the city’s modern shopping center. It was a nice job, but there wasn’t any future in it. Still, I left it a licensed bookseller. In 1972 I had to do my stitch for Queen and Country, and as a bad back tied me to a desk job, I applied for a posting overseas. For the Army, that meant Surinam, then still a member of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, and one of the most beautiful. Once you’ve seen the jungle, you will never forget it.

To keep it short, I stayed in business, slowly climbing the ladder, until in 1995 I changed direction. That year I joined a large educational institution, at a school specialized in Dutch language and integration courses for foreigners. That meant immigrants, refugees and international businessmen, an interesting mix. It was great work, on the one side teaching crash courses Dutch to high-powered people (we got a lot of very well-educated refugees) and on the other teaching reading and writing to people who had never ever held a pen before, let alone a computer. To see them growing was a reward in itself.

Unhappily, due to changed legislation the language school closed in mid-2012. In the meantime, I had started my first book (Rhidauna) in 2009 and it got published by Zilverspoor Publishers just before I got laid off. As my age, five years from retirement, made it nigh on impossible to find something else, I started building a career as an independent author.

SF and Fantasy have fascinated me since my high school days, but apart from some juvenile trash, I never seriously tried to write anything. But after several false starts and associated discouraged intervals, a spark began to grow and mid-2010, the first two parts of Shadow of the Revenaunt were more or less written. My style is probably a bit old-fashioned, Fantasy as a heroic tale with sympathetic heroes/heroines and black villains, in which good always triumphs in the end. I don’t use my characters as cannon fodder; they get hurt, but their dying is rare. One of the other elements in my writing I think important is, that both male and female characters have their own lives and goals. Most of them exist primarily for themselves, not as a prop or a love interest for other MC’s. The only character who did die, was actually a prop and I had him killed just to take that away from my lead MC.

 A word about the book cover of ‘Shardfall’ Designed by top illustrator Jos Weijmer of JW Art Studio, Maastricht (2013). The cover gives an impression of a scene from the book, the two main male characters, Muus and Kjelle, wrestling for possession of the blue stone Muus found. The style of all my covers is purposely old-school Fantasy, to give all my books their own, distinct identity. Because of their nostalgic look, these covers have been met with acclaim among fantasy fans.

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