Steve Rodgers' City of Shards was published in January 2018.
Information about Steve Rodgers:
Steve Rodgers has been reading science fiction since he was old enough to carry a stack of hard-bound books out of the central library. He's been writing all his life, including a novel started when he was 18.
In his adult life, Steve is a writer of science fiction, fantasy, and speculative fiction whose short stories have appeared in Deepwood Publishing's "Ruined Cities" anthology, Cosmic Vegetable's "Anthology of Humorous SF", Longcount Press's "Songs of the Great Cycle (Mesoamerican Fantasy)", and "Dysfunctional Family: An Anthology", all for sale on Amazon. His short fiction has also appeared in several on-line magazines, such as Perihelion, Stupefying Stories, Black Denim Lit, Electric Spec, Newmyths, and many others. Steve has won several honorable mentions and silver honorable mentions from the prestigious Writers of the Future contest, and has attended the Viable Paradise science fiction writing workshop. He is currently working on a Fantasy novel series "Spellgiver".
Steve Rodgers lives in Southern California with his wife and dog.
Click here to visit his official website.
Information about City of Shards:
In the gang-ridden Wormpile District, 16-year-old Larin shouts nonsense words into the decaying alleyways, a magical tourette’s syndrome that has brought him grief from every neighborhood thug. Protected from the worst beatings by his drug-addicted warrior-uncle, Larin’s life is one of loneliness, trapped in his uncle’s four block safe zone where no gang member dares tread. But when he learns his words have marked him as servant to Lord of Demons, things go from bad to worse. For that phrase has shoved him into the middle of an ancient war between the Six-Legged gods and the Lord of Demons, both of whom regard humanity as mere playthings.
Meanwhile, far to the north and across the Great Chasm, the non-human six-limbed Lidathi prepare to make war on the Tanbar empire. Their leader Kemharak is determined to steal back what was stolen, for the four-limbed ones have taken everything that matters. Yet his Six-Legged Gods demand pain, and he knows he will never truly be free while they still hold him in their claws.
And in the King’s palace, treachery and hatred weaken the Tanbar empire against the coming invasion from the north and a second one from the south by another land in the claws of the Six-Legged Gods.
As Tanbar faces threats from every direction, Larin will have to tread the narrow path between two evils, his only allies his drug-addicted uncle, a permanently drunk priestess, and a high-born wizardress who must hold her nose and work with the street rabble she despises. For as bad as his Master is, refusing to follow him will only plunge his empire into a greater darkness - an abyss so deep, it will turn mankind’s soul to ash.
REVIEW: CITY OF SHARDS BY STEVE RODGERS
Steve Rodgers' City of Shards is the first novel in the Spellgiver series of independently published high fantasy novels. It's a refreshingly different kind of a fantasy novel that has plenty of magic and intriguing gods to satisfy the needs of readers who are looking for a captivating and magical story. I was positively surprised by this novel, because it's entertaining and has been written out of love for storytelling. When I began to read it, I had no idea what to expect from the story, but I soon found myself enjoying it.
This novel is a compelling high fantasy novel with elements of young adult fantasy, dark fantasy, adventure fantasy and sword and sorcery. It has several familiar elements and common fantasy tropes (a lonely orphan boy, good vs. evil etc) which an experienced reader will be able to spot easily, but fortunately the author's approach to them feels fresh and imaginative, because he has written a gripping story with magic, intrigue and good characterisation.
One of the most noticeable things about this novel is that the author has created a world that is incredibly detailed and well-developed. The author has clearly invested a lot of time into creating something new and has succeeded in it. The time he has put into the background work can be seen throughout the story, because his fantasy world is a vibrant place with its own history and unique magic system.
Because the synopsis of this novel tells quite a lot about the happenings, I won't mention anything about them (the less you know about the story in advance the more you'll enjoy it). I'll only mention that City of Shards is a complex story, the events of which take place in the Empire of Tanbar where an orphan boy Larin finds himself in the middle of an ancient war involving the Lord of Demons and the Six-Legged Gods to whom humans are mere playthings that can easily be discarded.
Larin is an intriguing protagonist, because he suffers from a condition that has caused him lots of grief and problems. He shouts out nonsensical words that others consider to be meaningless and strange. He finds out that the words actually have a meaning, because they mark him as a servant of Haraf, the Lord of Demons, and his purpose is to bring Haraf back to the world.
Larin's life is different from other boys' lives. Most of the time Larin is confined to the Wormpile District where he lives with his uncle Akul, because it's the only place where he is safe from Oarl's gang members who have a habit of beating and bullying him. He's a lonely boy who doesn't have many friends, because he lives an isolated life. Despite being lonely, he's brave and stands up for himself against the gang members, even though he knows that his actions may be stupid and reckless because of their consequences.
Kemharak is an enemy character who's unlike humans, because he's a Lidath. He is the High Commander of the Lidath army. His great assembled army has only one purpose: to recover the stolen lands that once belonged to them. He is studying humans and human motivations, because he doesn't fully understand certain things. Although he's a formidable creature, he's unlike others of his race and dares to question things.
The other characters are also well-created and add depth to the story. I enjoyed reading about Laniette, Akul, Trana, Onie, Maldovin and Theralle. Laniette is quite an interesting character, because she is a wizardress who senses something in Larin.
The worldbuilding is impressive, because the author has come up with a sufficiently different kind of a secondary fantasy world. The Empire of Tanbar is well-visualised and the author takes his time to introduce the locales to the reader. The cultural and political aspects of the world are handled well. When I read this novel, I noticed that the author's worldbuilding lacks the vast scope of many big epic fantasy series, but he makes up for it by writing about a detailed and well-created world that feels entirely realistic.
What's great about the world is the lack of elves, goblins, dwarfs and other similar kind of races that most fantasy novels are filled with. I respect the author for consciously steering away from these Tolkienesque races and concentrating on creating something new, because it makes a difference. In this novel, Tolkienesque races have been replaced by the Lidathi who are a native species with claws and pods. There's something wonderfully alien yet familiar and Lovecraftian about them that fascinates me.
Because the magic system is original, I think it's good to say a few words about it. Lyrashi is the language of the ancient creatures known as Carvers and it's the foundation of the world's magic. Carvers were godlike beings, but they've disappeared and their glyphs have given humanity keys to their power. What's especially fascinating about magic in this novel is that everybody can use a bit of magic and the moon Spelligiver amplifies the use of magic when it's near. There are, however, limitations to how much power one can wield, because some have more power while others have less power. There are also rules that one must be aware of before using certain kind of magic or something may go terribly wrong.
The depiction of religion and religious elements is interesting. The author portrays religion in a thought-provoking and surprisingly unflattering way, because the priests are anything but perfect. Both the Emja priests and the Morphat priests are not ideal, but flawed and imperfect priests. The Emja priests often drink too much and the Morphat priests are treacherous and extremely violent priests who know how to manipulate people into submission.
I think it's great that the author has included a timeline of historical happenings, because it introduces readers to the history of the world. This timeline is intriguingly complex and detailed. The epigraphs also reveal quite a lot of information about the world.
I can hardly wait to start reading the next novel, In the Claws of the Indigen, because I enjoyed this novel and found it captivating. I have a feeling that the sequel will be an even more satisfying reading experience and will feature quite a lot of happenings.
Steve Rodgers' City of Shards is refreshingly different kind of high fantasy for readers who want to read something compelling. It's a well written independently published fantasy novel with depth and good characterisation. It's a perfect example of how compelling and fresh independent fantasy fiction can be at its best and most original.