Sunday, October 1, 2017

Book Review: 'A Veil of Shadows' by Michael W. Garza

Michael W. Garza comfortably posts on his Facebook page, `Zombies, spaceships, and dragons have all found a place in my writing. I often find myself wondering where my inspiration will come from next and in what form my imagination will bring it to life. The outcomes regularly surprise me and it's always my ambition to amaze those curious enough to follow me and take in those results. I sincerely hope that everyone will find something that astonishes, surprises, or simply scares the heck out of you.' Those of us who were captivated with his previous books `The Hand that Feeds', `The Elder Unearthed', ‘Tribes of Decay’, ‘Season of Decay’, and ‘The Last Infecion’ will find equal fascination with this Young Adult novel that once again terrifies without totally upsetting the reader.

One of the many aspects of Michael's novels that makes them absorb the reader's attention and surroundings is his ability to flow the story through dialogue. No long descriptive passages of `setting up' the stage; Michael lets the characters' responses to each other and to the myriad bizarre occurrences push the story along. He opens this new novel with his usual fine prose – ‘Michael has the gift of creating atmosphere conducive to the topic and this he proves within the first couple of paragraphs of the book: ‘Gavin held on to the horseman like his life depended on it. The mount was a powerful beast, and it pushed through the dark landscape with long, galloping strides. Gavin took every chance he could to look for his sister. Naomi was riding behind another horseman, but Gavin had lost sight of them some time ago. The only real comfort came from the feeling of his sword swaying against his side. He knew he couldn’t fight against these hardened men, but the fact that they let him keep his weapon gave him hope they meant to help him. It felt like they’d been riding for hours. Gavin scanned the horizon and found no hint of color that would mark an oncoming sunrise. It was impossible to tell what strange land he and his sister had arrived in, but he was sure they were not home. The children had flung themselves through the Shadow Gate with few other choices. The war-torn land they left behind promised only the rise of the Shade Lord Azzmon and an assurance that Naomi would be hunted down for her ability to open the Shadow Gates. This new world had some strange connection to the land they’d escaped, but Gavin didn’t know how. The horsemen who found them spoke of Malick, a name both children knew. He was said to be the second Shade Lord believed to have been destroyed by their great-grandfather. They’d heard different versions of the outcome of that battle but could never confirm the truth of it. The kids set out from upstate New York in search of their great-grandfather a month ago, but it felt like a lifetime. Gavin had far more questions than answers and the peculiar situation they currently found themselves in wasn’t a promising one.’

The synopsis aligns our expectations – ‘A desperate search leads to a new world - Naomi and Gavin are on the run. Having narrowly escaped Azzmon’s clutches, they find themselves hunted by Malick, another Shade Lord. He has amassed an army of foul creatures, and the city-state of Tarravale stands on the brink of chaos. Naomi’s ability to open Shadow Gates makes her an alluring target, and the Shade Lord will stop at nothing to possess her. The children must find a way to escape before their new world is buried in an unwinnable war.’

Now that you have the theme, jump into this book and see why Michael has mastered the scare realm. This man can frighten even the most jaded reader - and that is a very good thing in a time when we are all becoming so cellphone computer-driven flatline in our way of dealing with ideas. He jars us, makes us think, substantiates the possibilities of an approach of realism to his creations, and in the end provides a very fine novel that creeps into our psyches. He is good, very good. September 17
I received a free copy of this book and volunteered to review it.

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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