Thursday, August 31, 2017

Book Review: 'Out of the Shadows' by Ashlee Nicole Bye

Australian author Ashlee Nicole Bye makes a stunning debut with OUT OF THE SHADOWS, which serves to introduce a series she has named SHADOWLANDS. It is that much sought after admixture of fantasy, paranormal themes and science fiction that is a genre mature young adults, especially, find fascinating to the point of obsession. Ashlee places her tale in her hometown of Melbourne allowing all of the fantasy aspects of her novel ring credible – as credible as fantasy can be!

One of the many joys of Ashlee’s writing style is the degree of eloquence that pervades even the opening Preface – a technique designed to seduce the reader into the long story ahead: ‘Once, there was nothing but shadows. An entire world made only of darkness, absent of all light. One day, so it is said, a star exploded to set the darkness aflame and with the light came life. Creatures of all shapes and sizes came into existence, with names like angel, demon, faery, and dragon. They existed together peacefully, these new creatures of The Shadowlands. Until, eventually, they did not…’
Then she invite the mystery that is to come with the opening paragraphs – ‘As Julian studied the mangled remains of the boy who had once been Campbell Locke, it was easy to see how the humans could have mistaken the death for a homicide. The latest in a string of vicious murders by the now infamous ‘Melbourne Slasher’, who had plagued the streets of this city for near on three months now—or so the papers said. The teenager’s throat had been slashed with what, to human eyes, looked like a knife. But Julian knew better—that wound was the result of an incredibly sharp claw.’

The complex and involving story is well distilled in the synopsis the author provides – ‘From the streets of Melbourne to the bowels of Westminster, the delicate balance between life and death that is so painstakingly maintained by the reapers of The Order of Dark and Light is being tested by the return of an ancient threat. Tensions are rising within the hidden world of The Shadowlands and if this threat is not contained war will be inevitable. And the destruction of the human world is bound to follow in its wake. Amidst this tension, eighteen year-old Sachi Manning is struggling to cope with the grief and guilt that has plagued her ever since her best friend was murdered six months earlier—that is, until she spots him seemingly alive and well and being held at scythe point by a hooded figure who looks more like a GQ model than the Grim Reaper. Sachi shouldn’t be able to see through the glamours that shield Shadowlanders from the human world, so the reaper in question wants some answers. And so begins the craziest couple of weeks of Sachi’s life as she is drawn into a world of mysteries, magic, monsters, and mayhem, encountering dragons, faeries, soul-sucking demons, not-so-grim reapers, and even the Horseman of Death. With a mix of heart, humour and hair-raising action, this is an adventure of an afterlifetime.

Kudos to a young and obviously gifted writer! Grady Harp, July 17

Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of Grady Harp. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.

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