Join me as I explore Gelo Fleisher's debut fantasy novella Shadowcursed.
Bolen is a thief, plying his trade under the spires of an ancient and sprawling city. Worried that he's growing too old, Bolen has lined up a risky job, just to prove that he can still pull one off.
Tonight, he's going to break into a nobleman's vault and help himself to its contents. What he doesn't know is that inside is the key to a secret as old as the city itself.
Kings have killed for it, demons have coveted it, priests have prayed for it, and in a few moments it will be in his hands. And when it is, the adventure of his life will begin.
I don't know if I'd call it an adventure, but it's definitely an intriguing read with equal parts fantasy and horror. Oh, and I love the cover! It makes me think of the medieval setting in the movie Van Helsing.
Bolen is an aging thief who's never known any other way to keep food in his belly. His only friends aren't really friends, just those who use his skills to ply their own trade and fill their pockets. But he's got to figure out something else to do to keep a roof over his head as age wears him down, because the thought of dying an agonizing death by losing his grip and falling from a rooftop has become a very real probability. When the chance to break into the treasury of Lord Falasade presents itself, Bolen foolishly agrees.
He just never imagined one last job would lead to the gates of hell.
Lord Falasade's family has carried a secret that whispers through the night - a darkness of pure evil resides within the city, a life of death connected to the great ruling house that slowly slips even the strongest mind into fragile madness. Once the torch passed to him, Falasade never had a choice in the manner of cruelty handed out to the people. The evil eats away at his soul as the years pass, until an unlikely event offers a chance at reprieve.
But Lord Falasade's mind is too far gone to accomplish the task - and there is only one who possesses the ability to free him and the village from bondage and ultimate destruction.
It took a little bit to get going, but I eventually found Shadowcursed to be a good story in the fight of good and evil. Once the story engaged me, the plot moved forward with additional characters and situations then quickly built into an explosive finale. Bolen and even Lord Falasade became sympathetic characters as the story wove toward the finishline. The evil character, Markus, was creepy and frightening, which is where the horror element really came into play.
Good showing usage kept the story moving as all of the elements came together. There were a few places where I'd have preferred a little more development, as the events felt rushed and almost skipped over to the point they didn't really need a mention. Bolen was nicely developed as a character, but I'd really have liked to see more fleshing-out of Lord Falasade. The witch, Miina, a tool used by the evil character Markus, was really not developed in any way to the point I felt she wasn't even necessary to the story. In truth, there was so much here that could've been utilized to tell a much longer and much deeper story, and I'd earnestly liked to have seen what would've happened with a more fully developed story as a whole. There was a lot of potential here for an epic, full-length novel.
Editing was fairly clean. Point-of-view had just a few moments where it wavered between characters, almost as if dipping your toe into the water - you're not fully in and yet you're not fully out either. It stopped me a few times, but a minor change in wording would alleviate this sense of stepping into two character heads at once.
Overall, I enjoyed Shadowcursed, though I'd still love to see how this would develop as a full-length novel. Right on the cusp of taking a good fantasy story and making it great leave me with a rating of four stars.
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Some interesting facts about Gelo: He's lived in America, Korea, Japan, and Mongolia. He's a Certified Public Accountant and graduated first in his class from the Wharton school of business. His writing has won several literary contests and has been nominated for a Reader's Choice Award. His indie game development work has also won several awards and has been showcased in PC Gamer magazine. He loves hearing from people so feel free to email him! Contact him through his website at http://gfleisher.blogspot.com/