A Reverie of Brothers by R D Shanks

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A Reverie of Brothers by R D Shanks

Buy A Reverie of Brothers by R D Shanks at Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com

Category: General Fiction
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: Ani Johnson
Reviewed by Ani Johnson
Summary: Its exploration of the concepts of power and control by and over adolescents makes this interesting adult read, especially in a fantasy setting. It may be the nursery for this seedling of a debut for RD but there's a lot of talent showing through. R D Shanks popped into Bookbag Towers to chat to us.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 496 Date: December 2014
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1505631395

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The castle of Delzean's walls have always protected Emperor Eli, his sons, sister, niece and nephew from the ravages and poverty of the people in the city beyond. However the days may be numbered as a burgeoning revolution has infiltrated its walls thanks to the rebel movement known as The Eyes. Their plan necessitates the unwitting involvement of the spoilt, egotistical aforementioned niece, Princess Ava. Unfortunately there will be collateral damage with tragic effects.

Scottish writer RD Shanks (Rachael to her mum) is an English teacher by day and author by night (and holidays and weekends too probably). This, her debut novel, exhibits her love of politics as she pulls apart the machinations of power in an interesting setting.

Rachael has set the book against a fantasy backdrop in that we have a castle, aristocracy and peasants but she has dispensed with the other trappings that usually go along with it – not even a sniff of a wizard or wand. This gives it an almost historical fiction feeling which allows the characters to breathe without the strait jacket of real, well-known historic events.

Indeed, where the characters are concerned, don't panic. We may be introduced to 12 people within the first 15 pages but a proportion will fade away almost immediately while others float in and out, leaving a core who definitely stick in the mind.

The clue is in the title: this core consists of the irredeemably awful (personality-wise) Princess Ava, her brother Prince Leon and two sets of brothers. One set is princely while the other comes from the wrong side of the castle walls. There's also the Emperor and Ava and Leon's mum Adema, but the focus is definitely on the six young people.

The joy of the novel is that, apart from Ava, there's no out and out baddie. The Princes Chiron and Arcario (yes, Rachael names a good name!) are very much victims of their upbringing (and in Arcario's case victim of Ava). Chiron is trying to forge his own personality and methods, as is the teen way, but Eli has other ideas of how the next in line should deport himself. Arcario has been made vulnerable by something that happened in the past and has been conned by Ava into a form of emotional bondage. Indeed when considering Ava, think a darker, more manipulative Violet Elizabeth Bott. Yes, that evil!

On the paupers' side (although they aren't exactly paupers, their father Sawney being a royal advisor and all), we have Mathias and Lorian, willing pawns in a plot that appeals to my leftie leanings. However, as I was equally drawn to most of the others it brought me to a delicious quandary as to whom to plump for. I therefore picked everyone… apart from Ava of course!

Rachael has indeed fleshed them out well but she's chosen the most difficult way of doing it. Dialogue's usually the method of choice as, joined with description, it's the easiest way for a reader to become acquainted with a book's population. However this time most of the conversations are reported rather than witnessed by us. There are times when we wish we could have been present at some of these discussions, but the novel races on at such a pace that there's soon something else to take our attention.

Talking about speeding on, right from the beginning Rachael seems to have a point in mind from where her story will broaden out to absorb us as we're rushed through some big historical moments before getting there. I won't spoil but let's just say that the event that included Eli's late wife is enticing in its brevity. In fact I also wanted to learn more about her from the teasers that Rachael had scattered in the episode. I started thinking this was a minus but then my mind went into devious author mode: this could be a great way of planting the seeds for a prequel. The events would certainly support one.

Another interesting point is that, despite the story being about teens, the language leaves us in no doubt this is an adults' book. It's not rude or crude but written in a mannered, understandable, again faux historic tone, providing lines that take on a mellifluence, like: He was a touch perturbed when her countenance lightened…

A Reverie would actually be a very good book club novel. Between the topical themes of power and control at either end of the social scale, the unusual use of language and the intriguing people Rachael has introduced, the discussion will continue long after the wine and snacks are exhausted. There is definitely enough here to prove Rachael's burgeoning talent, promising much from her eagerly awaited next project.

(A huge thank you to the author for providing us with a copy for review.)

Further Reading: If this appeals and you'd like to learn more about RD Shanks' literary roots, we recommend a novel from another of her influences, namely Once Upon a Time in the North by Philip Pullman.

Buy A Reverie of Brothers by R D Shanks at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy A Reverie of Brothers by R D Shanks at Amazon.co.uk

Buy A Reverie of Brothers by R D Shanks at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy A Reverie of Brothers by R D Shanks at Amazon.com.

Bookinterviews.jpg R D Shanks was kind enough to be interviewed by Bookbag.

You can read more about R D Shanks here.


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