About the Book
A Highside girl. Beaten. Murdered. Her body found on a Lowside dock. A magistrate comes looking for answers. For justice.
Alys trades and sells secrets among the gangs and factions of Lowside. She is a daughter of the underworld. Bold. Cunning. Free. When an old lover asks for help, she agrees. For a price.
Together, they travel into the dark heart of the underworld in search of a killer.
This is the third novella from Gelineau and King. In their ongoing, over-arching series, Echoes of the Ascended, there are four distinct series under the Echoes of the Ascended banner, all taking place in the same world. Each has a different feel. The first three series, those featuring Elinor, Ferran, and Alys take place somewhat around the same time. The fourth, which is a YA series that begins in December, jumps us back five years and follows Roan and Kay, along with the protagonists from the other three series.
It’s an unorthodox approach, but I applaud the audacity of the creators. And there is no reason that books with different influences shouldn’t take place in the same world. I would be interested in reading a grim, monster-hunting novel in the Harry Potter world, or the hard-boiled detective novel lurking in the streets of a city in the Malazan Book of the Fallen series.
We reviewed the second novella, Rend the Dark, HERE. It’s a monster-hunter driven book. It fits along the basic concept and feel of works like the movie Van Helsing, or Rick Yancey’s YA title The Monstrumologist, or heck, the video game Bloodborne.
This third novella, Best Left in the Shadows, is an interesting fantasy noir title; in some ways, it feels like a police procedural. Castle in Riften, maybe. It is, at heart, a detective novella. But it owns the setting and trappings of your typical urban city fantasy work. Don’t confuse that with “urban fantasy” because this is not UF. The setting shifts from the docks at night, to narrow alleyways, sewerscapes and waterways, and a seedy brothel.
Alys trades in information and favors. Due to a shared, complicated past, she assists a magistrate in the investigation of a murder on her local turf. She’s not usually the sort to help the authorities, and it isn’t good for her reputation. This provides some good conflict between the protagonists.
I do wish that the work was longer. Novellas fall into an interesting space between short stories and novels. Short stories, the good ones, make every word count. Novels have the ability to stretch out scenes, build atmosphere and tone, give us foils and time enough to live there. Novellas don’t provide the length to feel lived in, nor staccato precision. I want to live in these works long enough to fully understand the characters, setting, magic system, monsters and creatures and politics. I suppose that’s why it is good that these novellas continue on.
This is one of those stories that left me thinking, “I want to play this video game.” I enjoyed the overall tone, setting and character sketches. Conceptually, this is the best fit for me as a reader. Ultimately, though, I think I’ve enjoyed Reaper of Stone the most of the first three entries. But the first three novellas have combined into an intriguing patchwork quilt of story. And I’m excited to finish the short edge of the quilt with book four in December.
About the Authors
Mark and Joe have been writing and telling stories together for the last 25 years. They share a love for the classic fantasy tales of their childhood. Their Echoes of the Ascended series brings those old epic characters and worlds to new life.
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