‘Shadow of the New World’ is the first book in a dark series titled ‘Cycle of the Beast’. It begins in two completely different parts of a world where everything is hidden behind veils of secrecy and the illusion of paradise. The people of this world are unaware of the powerful forces which govern their world and that they are all that stands between these powerful beings and an unknown and deadly secret. The story centres around a young village boy called Truan who wishes for nothing more than to keep his sister happy. However he will soon discover that his presence alone could actually put her in more danger than he could ever have imagined. He must learn the truth about his world and accept his responsibility or see the world along with his sister destroyed.
‘Shadow of the New World’ is a cleverly written story which combines the magic of a brand new fantasy world with action, romance and humour. I was immediately captivated by the intensity of the opening scene which provided me with loads of knowledge about the people and history of this land while retaining an air of mystery and encouraging me to read on further. The main characters are very unique while still in possession of believable human qualities, making it easy for the reader to relate to them and share their pain, hopes and anxiety. In particular the triangular relationship between Truan, Eleana and Jaslyn is fascinating to read as it demonstrates the ways in which loyalty can create awkward conflicts.
The contrast between Altakhar, the brooding battle-seasoned Kie’Sha warrior, and the light, cheerful innocence of the young villagers is well portrayed. It was refreshing to read the initial scenes set in the village of Puloi A’Rahane – finally a fantasy book has been written where the customs and history of its people are not just slight adaptations of pre-modern Europe. The author has definitely put a lot of time and effort into developing his world and thinking about exactly who these people are. I was also pleased to see that while the names of people, places and objects were original they were not so completely foreign as to make it difficult to remember exactly what each was. James has a fresh writing style which makes it easy to read the beautifully descriptive passages although he has a tendency to overuse animal metaphors. However some of them are so well-placed and inventive that I could not think of a better way to describe that image.
As with any epic fantasy this story has a lot of ground to cover but in general it moves along at a good pace. There are just a few sections where I felt my interest starting to waver as I was more interested in the main plot and felt that going into the background was unnecessary at that point. Overall I have enjoyed reading the start of this new series and cannot wait to read the remaining chapters once they have been revised. ‘Shadow of the New World’ is unlike any fantasy book which has gone before and raises many interesting questions about society. It provides a high level of entertainment as the author has deftly worked comedy and romance into the action-packed tale.