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Feature book: Tearing the Shroud

1 July 2015

Tearing the ShroudTearing the Shroud by JM Bray

This is not a romance book; it’s a sword and sorcery action adventure.

Vincent, a university student, likes cold, wet weather and can’t decide on his major. He’s been having nightmares of sliced up bodies, stacked up like firewood, and razor-clawed monsters. He has wicked martial arts, exercise and ninja-type sneaking skills. His roommate, Flea, is the comedic element to the story.

Flea introduces Vincent to a gaming group (Dungeons and Dragons), and Julie, one of the group’s members, becomes Vincent’s love interest. There’s also another male in the group, Knife, and a mysterious figure, who sells gaming dice, by the name of Mr Brown.

Coleman, a Warrior of the Oaks, is living Vincent’s nightmares of mutilated, stacked bodies and monsters with lethal claws in another plane of existence. He is Vincent’s complement on another plane of existence, which has something called the Divine. Coleman’s love interest is Jolie, a healer, who has a somewhat undefined relationship with another female, Sari, a warrior.

The baddie of the story is Justus—a magician, sorcerer type—who travels from the same plane as Coleman to Earth to extend his life. He seems to be inhabited by an evil voice and makes a deal with a demon, a handsome compelling male with a mouth full of pointed teeth. This devil character likes to be known as the Master (Doctor Who anyone) and gets Justus to sign a contract in blood.

This book is part of a larger story but finishes in a good spot. It is a boys’ own adventure with a few female characters and insta-love between the couples. The mens’ relationships are reasonably well established, but the women feel two dimensional—useful as plot points. The suddenly acquired knife skills of Julie illustrate this. She can, out of nowhere, throw knives like a well-trained assassin, and it is explained in a couple of words—that she threw ball with her father. In comparison, we get the whole background of Vincent’s martial arts history and his morning training regime in detail. There are three females in the story who are more fleshed out than Julie and they appear in Coleman’s plane of existence. The seer, who plays a traditional wise old woman role; Jolie, the romantic insta-love interest for Coleman; and Sari in that undefined relationship with Jolie.

There were a lot of hints at popular culture with Vincent choosing his gaming dice in a scene reminiscent of Harry Potter when he acquired his wand. The explanation of the Divine, ‘… we live with the presence of the Divine constantly around us. It empowers us, directs our actions, and shapes our lives in so many ways …’, sounds a little like Obi-Wan explaining the Force to Luke Skywalker in Star Wars. ‘It’s an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us and penetrates us. It binds the galaxy together.’

There’s quite a bit of switching between characters, which can be disorienting if you don’t read the book in one sitting. Although the backwards and forwards in time is handled well, instead of just supplying dates, the author specifies things like ‘24 years ago’, at the start of the chapter. There is a reasonable amount of concentration required to follow the conversation once Coleman shares Vincent’s body.

If you are looking for a boys’ own adventure, this is the start of a larger tale, and you’ll enjoy the interactions between Vincent, Flea and Knife as well as the fight scenes. If you are looking for romance, it’s more romantic elements in a new adult style.

Reviewed by Gina

A review copy of this book was provided by the publisher.

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