Shattered Dreams is a dark fantasy, one the establishes its credentials from the first chapter and rarely strays from its example. A great many of the characters are damaged in some way, many are killers and while none were particularly heroic by any standard, they were all presented as having some sympathetic qualities. The book deals with political maneuvering, religious in-fighting, and the beginnings of an invasion.
Despite the above, battle sequences in the novel are relatively few and far between. When they do occur, they tend to be well thought out and handled. A description of a duel involving war-hammers is a standout, and more involved than you might otherwise think.
One of the things that I enjoyed most about this novel is the world-building. There is a great sense of history to the world and to the characters. None of the major players, save perhaps one, are blank slates. They all have backstories, some of which touch on or interact with each other to a greater or lesser extent. It often feels like the narrative is barely scratching the surface of what there is to discover.
As the first in a series (two more books and counting) the ending may feel a touch abrupt to some readers but I think it paused the story at the appropriate point. There was some degree of resolution, although only a fraction of the questions asked were actually answered. More importantly, there are still plenty of mysteries and great promise for things to come.
If I had one complaint, it was that I did occasionally find some of the character names difficult to keep track of. But that is a relatively minor issue compared to the quality on display. If you’re looking for an expansive fantasy world that isn’t afraid to embrace the darkness, this is heartily recommended.
4.5 out of 5 talking squirrels.