The main character, Eska, is a daughter of privilege, raised in the opulence of the aristocracy and reared to one day lead her family’s shipping and treasure hunting company. She is intelligent, attractive, and adventurous. I love in-world lore, and unearthing the history of a fantasy setting, so I was immediately intrigued by the prospect of a protagonist who was an archeologist. While I wouldn’t go so far as to compare her character to Indiana Jones, I think anyone who enjoyed those movies and loves fantasy can expect to be entertained by a lot of the same elements in this book. The supporting cast was also interesting. Over the course of the novel we are acquainted to various degrees with a few other POV characters and I think in general they are interesting and compelling.
There were, however, a couple of aspects to the novel that I felt could have been handled better. First and foremost was the pacing. There were quite a few scenes that paid excessive attention to extraneous details. A scene might linger a couple of pages after the major purpose has transpired or we might get a lengthy description of someone’s attire or equipment. None of it was too excessive, but when you stretch a paragraph here and a page there over and over, it added up to a few spots that dragged a bit. Overall, I still enjoyed the read, but felt that trimming some of these may have improved the story’s flow.
I also wanted more information on the MacGuffins earlier. The relics Eska is seeking are a critical element of the story. Toward the back half of the narrative, we get a bit more historical info on them, but I wanted more early on. I wanted to know what the stakes were as I was investing in the story. I also wanted to know more about what these magical artifacts were capable of. Since sinister powers are after them for mysterious purposes, it may have heightened the drama and made the consequences of failure feel more dire to have a bit more concrete of an idea what these gewgaws were capable of.
I found the setting fairly unique and thought it added a great element of style to the story. I got strong Medici vibes, almost a fantasy Renaissance period piece. I always enjoy a bit of a departure from the standard medieval fantasy setting. The defunct Alescuan dynasty provided a historical boogieman which gave the archeological aspect of the story firm footing. The variety of locales felt well fleshed out and created a globe-trotting atmosphere that gave things the grand feel of a good adventure story.
In general, I enjoyed this novel. Shadows of Ivory had a few memorable scenes that were creatively told and really stood out with cinematic flair. I liked the prose, the characters, and the adventurous mood. It was a well imagined tale that I would recommend to anyone who loves fantasy infused with a sense of history.
SPFBO Score: 7.0