M.E. Wyatt was generous enough to share a review copy of his debut novel, “The Shards of Kestrius,” with me. The book follows the stories of Arden and Rael as they try to bring down a rebellion and uncover an assassination attempt, respectively.
It’s very hard to do a dual POV book well. Nearly always, I find myself rooting for one character more than the other. In this case, Rael definitely seemed more compelling to me, I think because that storyline had more immediate stakes for the reader. Nonetheless, Arden became more engaging as the story progressed, especially through his relationship with Tanat.
Aside from the challenges presented by the multiple perspectives, this is a very well-plotted story. The pacing feels just right, with a great balance of introspection and action. The plot has a significant forward momentum that kept me reading and strong action scenes.
Stylistically, this is a very readable book, with some lovely moments. Scenes of action, and especially of actual violence and combat, are especially strong. The book does need another pass through editing. In addition to typos, there are quite a few sentences that are phrased awkwardly enough to make them rather hard to read.
The minor characters were overall great. Wyatt has a definite gift for introducing characters by their quirks and letting even those with only a brief role in the story shine. Tanat, especially, stood out to me.
The worldbuilding is fascinating and complex. However, there is one significant issue throughout it, which is pretty common in both first-time and indie-published authors of fantasy (I’m sure I’m guilty of it in my own work). Important worldbuilding facts are often introduced only when they become relevant to the plot. That makes it seem as though they didn’t exist beforehand, which leads to a world that feels less complex and real. For instance, the Kin, who are a major feature of the book’s overall plot, aren’t mentioned for the first time until page 40, and we don’t actually find out what or who they are until about a hundred pages later. Conceptually, they’re super cool, kind of like dragonborn in D&D, and I was excited to learn more about them, but this is a long time to leave readers wondering about a major aspect of the world, or to wait to introduce something that’s going to be such a crucial plot element. This example felt representative of the book’s worldbuilding: incredibly thoughtful, interesting, and innovative, but often not introduced on the page with the same skill it was constructed with.
Overall, this is a well-told story in an interesting world, and I look forward to seeing the author’s work continue to evolve in future books! I hope to learn more about the world of Kestrius, its magic, and its people.