A huge thank you to the author William Ray for the digital copy of Shadow Debt and Storytellers on Tour for letting me man-handle the blog into the tour because I didn’t want to miss out on this book (even though I totally could have read it on my own).
|Series: The Tales of the Verin Empire #3
|Date of Publishing: September 20th 2020
Glynn Sorley is sheriff of Keat’s Field, a tiny settlement in an otherwise lawless frontier. With the discovery of diamonds, her town is flooded with fortune-hunters looking to strike it rich. It’s also a target for competing colonial powers, savage goblin tribes, and outlaws.
A rustler on the run from the law stumbles across his father’s mysterious legacy – a weapon of immense magical power. He uses it to ravage across the territory as the notorious outlaw Gentleman Jim.
But the weapon’s power comes at a terrible cost, and Keat’s Field may just have to pay the price…
This third Tale of the Verin Empire returns us to the world of Gedlund and The Great Restoration. It explores a frontier trapped between competing nations, where goblins reign and a lone sheriff fights to keep the peace.
Drawing inspiration from L’Amour’s Comstock Lode, Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, and our own late 19th century, Shadow Debt continues William Ray’s bold, critically acclaimed reinvention of classic fantasy in a world of memorable characters and unique perspectives, and features sketches from acclaimed illustrator Tom Parker.
“The sun set somewhere beyond the wall of the caldera, painting the rim over their heads in ruddy golden light. It was then that Ned saw a glimmer from the corner of his eye. When he turned his head for a better look, he stopped in his tracks, reaching out to grab at Sorley’s gathered skirt.
Standing atop the dark pool was a figure of a woman. Ned had no idea where she had come from, but she appeared to be formed of glass, posed with her face in her hands as if sobbing. He would have taken her for a statue if not for the movement of her shoulders as she cried.
The sky darkened further, and the shimmering pool at the center of the bowl had become a dull brown shadow. But beneath the spirit’s feet, it paled, forming an island of ice that rapidly stretched to the edges.”
For this story it had to be Bad Company by Bad Company. It has the right feel and let’s face it, it just screams Elgin and his gang. Plus I just love this song.
(Five Finger Death Punch did an incredible cover of this one too)
It’s hard to grow up in Texas and not have a little bit of western love in your blood or to not be slightly enamoured with cowboy legends like Jesse James, or Doc Holliday.
Shadow Debt the newest book in The Tales of the Verin Empire series has all the hallmarks of a great western inspired fantasy and hits a lot of my buttons by including those things that make the wild west stories so fun; outlaws, saloon brawls, and shoot-outs involving a magical gun – that doesn’t ever let you forget what you owe it. Why, heck, there’s even a good old-fashioned train robbery.
The story begins with Elgin. Freshly escaped from prison, he and his gang have big plans for Keat’s Field and especially the claim-land, that supports the area.
Although Elgin is the gang leader, he is pulled along through the story more by the goals of the bad company he keeps, and the legacy of his father’s gun than by any of his own plans. Deep down Elgin, is a decent guy who wanted his family to have a better life and we see that multiple times as he is stuck with choices that get worse as the days go by.
Ned is our other POV. A journalist, Ned’s newspaper sent him across country to get an interview with the Sheriff Sorlie of Keat’s Field. With the women’s suffrage movement going on back home, the head honchos at the paper are looking to get a fresh angle (and cash in a bit) on that fact that the sheriff of Keat’s field is a woman, and is doing a fine job keeping order in a part of the country that tends to be full of outlaws and vigilante justice.
Ned is our window into the area of Keat’s field. He is a fish out of water and adds a bit of lightness to the story as we explore the area, and meet the people through him. I enjoyed Ned. He comes across a bit shy, probably because he has a stammer, giving him an awkwardness that’s rather endearing.
This is a stand-alone series but there are small ties here and there – characters, and events from previous books are mentioned in passing. The tie-in outside of the world itself (and Sorlie) that I thought was the neatest way to expand the world – was the one through Ned, with the newspaper clippings, and adverts that were at the beginning of the chapters in the previous books.
This time, we don’t get the articles but William Ray went a step further here and included the illustrations that Ned made while visiting Keat’s field, brought to life for us by the amazing Tom Parker. I loved this idea. I have always been partial to books that have illustrated pieces of the story included, it’s such a nice touch and something you just don’t see much anymore, which is a real shame.
The Tales of the Verin Empire series have been phenomenal when it comes to bringing these characters and the world, they inhabit to life. I really loved the time period in Shadow Debt with the “boom” and the claims and unsurprisingly, I loved Elgin (Gentlemen Jim) and his gang of outlaws and how Ned’s and Elgin’s stories eventually connect in an unexpected way.
I think my favourite thing about this series though has been the incredible scenes with the “demons/myths” that are still around, scenes that remind us that the snakes the size of a house, aren’t the most terrifying creatures in this world.
I did have to let the book’s ending settle with me. I wasn’t sure how I felt about it at first – Gentlemen Jim, the writing was on the wall but Sorlie had me hesitating until I realized it couldn’t be any different because this wasn’t her story, really – it was Ned’s (and Elgin’s of course). And once I remembered that, my doubts melted away.
I don’t know if you can be underrated in self-pub, which is already underrated on its own, but William Ray, definitely falls in that category of authors that should be getting more attention because he consistently puts out quality work. I can’t even choose a book in this series that I like the best because they are all so damn good and they are all so different.
I feel like this was the most unfocused and rambly review I have written, so to sum it up: Don’t miss Shadow Debt, or for that matter, anything in The Tales of the Verin Empire series!