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Shield and Crocus
 
 

Shield and Crocus [Kindle Edition]

Michael R. Underwood

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Product Description

Product Description

In a city built among the bones of a fallen giant, a small group of heroes looks to reclaim their home from the five criminal tyrants who control it.

The city of Audec-Hal sits among the bones of a Titan. For decades it has suffered under the dominance of five tyrants, all with their own agendas. Their infighting is nothing, though, compared to the mysterious “Spark-storms” that alternate between razing the land and bestowing the citizens with wild, unpredictable abilities. It was one of these storms that gave First Sentinel, leader of the revolutionaries known as the Shields of Audec-Hal, power to control the emotional connections between people—a power that cost him the love of his life.

Now, with nothing left to lose, First Sentinel and the Shields are the only resistance against the city’s overlords as they strive to free themselves from the clutches of evil. The only thing they have going for them is that the crime lords are fighting each other as well—that is, until the tyrants agree to a summit that will permanently divide the city and cement their rule of Audec-Hal.

It’s one thing to take a stand against oppression, but with the odds stacked against the Shields, it’s another thing to actually triumph.

In this stunning, original tale of magic and revolution, Michael R. Underwood creates a cityscape that rivals Ambergris and New Crobuzon in its depth and populates it with heroes and villains that will stay with you forever.

About the Author

While Michael Underwood was born in Bloomington, Indiana, he’s made his home everywhere from New York to Oregon and Texas to Brooklyn. Currently residing in Baltimore, Maryland, Michael considers himself a lifelong gamer and geek and also a huge sci-fi fan. He attributes this to working in a game store while in his teens. Michael graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Indiana University in 2005, where he received a bachelor of arts in creative mythology. He holds a master of arts in folklore studies from the University of Oregon, where he wrote his thesis on tabletop role-playing games.

Michael’s passion has always been in teaching, and he has taken any opportunity he can to share his skills with others. He’s so far held classes for everything from web design to the tango and, of course, writing. He attributes his passion for public speaking and theatricality to his parents, who met while performing musical theater together. Michael combines his love of teaching and passion for performance across disciplines, from historical fencing to headlining an Argentine tango band.

He is the author of Geekomancy, Celebromancy, and Shield and Crocus.


Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 4019 KB
  • Print Length: 418 pages
  • Publisher: 47North (10 Jun 2014)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00HWI5OOK
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #81,128 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.7 out of 5 stars  25 reviews
35 of 36 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Lot's of Action in an interesting world 12 Jun 2014
By Robin Snyder - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition
Fantasies always have a learning curve. They are set in new worlds, with new rules and it takes time to learn those. The challenge I had with this novel is that it is fantasy with superheroes. So not only are the names complicated for the characters every super hero has an alter ego and on top of that a different species. I’m horrible with names so I spent 40% of the novel trying to remember who was who. My suggestion is to read a couple chapters and then read the glossary in the back and make a sheet so as not to be confused or you can just use the list I made.

Name / Superhero Name / Species
Wonlar / First Sentinel /Ikanollo
Selweh / Aegis / Ikanollo
Rova / Saphire / Freithin
Wenlizerachi / Blurred Fists / Pronai
Sarii / Salreslate / Jalvai
Bira / Ghost Hands / Qava

The good thing about this book is that the world is really imaginative. All the different species and the back story of the First Sentinel took a great deal of imagination to come up with. The lore of the giant falling and cities being built in his bones I found really captivating with descriptions of the forehead to the nose being twenty miles long. There are storms that are localized in sections of the city and when they hit inanimate objects come to life and beings who are struck can have special powers activated, but only if they survive the process. In the last thirty years tyrants have split up sections of the city to be controlled, but now they are going to meet and find a way to consolidate their power. If that happens the Shields that protect the city will be defeated for sure so now is the time to strike or die trying.

This falls into the Action, fight fight fight….go go go category for me. That isn’t really my preferred sort of fantasy. I, as a girl, get bored when there is just continual conflict and fights with some that last 4-5 chapters long. It’s not a bad thing it just isn’t my preferred type of fantasy. This seems like it would fall in better with a graphic novel format than book in my opinion. My preferred type of fantasy has explanations for the magic systems, reasons why things evolved the way they did. I really love the world building aspects and new rules for a new world more than most other things in a fantasy novel. I like a good fight now and again but I much prefer a build up to a fight instead of a gauntlet of them. Still I enjoyed the story a little more after I made my list and could tell who was doing what.

This seems to be presented as just a stand-alone novel, but the author seemed to leave it open at the end so that he could write more in this world later. Actually I got to the end and thought I should have had 1-2 more chapters to do a sort of wrap up if this was intended as a stand-alone novel. I appreciate that the author took chances and that not all of the main characters will make it out alive. They shouldn’t in a revolution so that had some authenticity to it. I would have like a little more character development though so that when those things happened it hit harder.

If you like action more than the world/character building and lore of the story than this is probably something you would enjoy.

Thank you to 47 North and Netgalley for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.
21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Fantastic Blend of Genres & Characters 11 Jun 2014
By Elan L Matlovsky - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
After reading the first chapter of this book, I knew that I was hooked. The book starts with a character somewhat reminiscent of Batman starting off towards a spark storm which we later learn is a (somewhat) natural occurrence that warps the threads of reality itself yet. He and his band of Shields protect the citizens of this city to the best of their ability while fighting the Tyrants whom had taken it over decades before.

The premise of the story itself is compelling but the depth that each race and character are given create a world unlike any other. I love the fresh take on "superhumans" as well; each race of people in this world have their own unique abilities (be it gigantism & super-strength or super-speed w/super-metabolism) but with these abilities come very realistic and well-thought out drawbacks. This makes for a very balanced and nuanced mix of people in this world and on top of that, the spark storms have the abilities to create spark-touched being who have been warped beyond their natural capabilities which could just as easily make you a super powered being or a grotesquely misshapen monster. Even with this ever-present risk, the Shields continue to protect people who would just as soon turn them in for an additional ration of food.

Additionally, each character is given their own voice over the course of the book and they are explored with such depth that you cannot help but begin to care for each and every one. I know that by the end of the book, I was cheering at every victory and scared to read through the defeats lest I lose one of these admirable heroes.

I highly recommend this book and hope that there will be more tales from this world in the future.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very impressed. 10 Jun 2014
By Nathan Gundlach - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I was quite impressed by what I found in this book.

The setting of this story is the city of Audec-Hal, the home of several races of people. Each race has a unique "birthright", abilities granted by virtue of their heritage (e.g. telekinesis, seeing the emotional connections between people, extreme speed, etc.). For the last fifty years, Audec-Hal and its citizens have suffered under the oppression of five tyrants who have divided the city among themselves and share an uneasy peace. These oligarchs employ both magic and technology to maintain their power base, and the combinations of the two are quite interesting.

Hope is not lost however; it struggles on in the form of the Shields of Audec-Hal, a small band of insurgents who fight against the tyrants by means of what is essentially guerrilla warfare: mostly small strikes, but a few larger ones against the tyrants' strongholds as well. The Shields are a small but versatile group who use their birthrights effectively to gain advantages in combat. Their leader is the First Sentinel, an old alchemist who remembers the time before the rise of the tyrants, when Audec-Hal was ruled by a democratically-elected Senate. As the story opens, the tyrants have agreed to a summit to formally divide the city and consolidate their power, something the Shields have to do whatever it takes to stop.

I'll let you read the rest of the story yourself, but I hope I've piqued your curiosity. The story is told from the points of view of the various Shields, with interludes giving the perspective of some of the tyrants. The shifting viewpoint serves to give an impressively full picture of the world and the situation as it develops, yet it leaves enough mystery to keep the reader interested.

Magic and technology traditionally belong to separate genres, namely fantasy and science fiction, respectively. A lot of attempts to mix the two in literature have failed in various ways, though the steampunk genre and its popularity show there is an interest in continuing the effort. This book is definitely not steampunk; it's something all its own. Where else would you find an android working with a sorceror, battling an alchemist/artificer?

In summary, this book is a wonderful adventure, with a depth and development of characters that is tough to find in modern literature. I look forward to more in this series.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Trying too hard 10 July 2014
By eper - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition
Shield and Crocus is a decent book with solid writing, I think it falls short in that it tries too hard to make a "cool" world. We've got a Batman-esque character going around the city with his grappling hook and spell strengthened longcoat (Dresden influence?), steampunk elements, a storm that changes people and gifts them with powers (making some monstrous in appearance), a city with a number of different races with unique superpowers (and realistic downsides to those powers), and that city is built on the bones of a titan. Interesting elements any one of which could be used as the foundation of a solid story (and they have been, while interesting they've all been used before and the book is only unique in cramming them all together)...they're all introduced in the first chapter. See the problem?
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Start your Summer Reading Right 10 Jun 2014
By Eric Christensen - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition
Ever since Jaws, summer is the time Hollywood studios release their action blockbusters. If the movie has robots, monsters, superheroes, or magic, odds are, it’ll come out during the summer. Now let’s say you’re walking up to your local theater, and you see this poster:

A lone hero, perched above a city, carrying a shield, and glancing up at a what-Castle-Grayskull-should-have-been palace. Would you want to see that movie? I know I would. In a heartbeat. Well, with Shield and Crocus, everything I love in a summer blockbuster was contained between two covers. I think it’s safe to say that summer is officially here.

You see, Shield and Crocus does feature a shield-bearing hero, as well as an older hero who relies on a belt filled with gadgets and a grappling hook, a sidekick who grows up to inherit a super hero’s mantle, a big blue hero with beastly strength, and a red hero who can move with dazzling speed. It also features a cast of villains that includes robots, mutants, wizards, a smiling madman, and a crime lord. This is territory that is familiar to most nerds, but Michael R. Underwood puts these comic tropes in a blender and sends it on one heckuva spin.

Shield and Crocus takes place in Audec-Hal, a city built among the remains of a titan who fell from the heavens (Just in case the cover doesn’t make it clear, I mean that literally. Readers will travel inside bones and along veins). A once proud city, it has fallen under the dominion of five tyrants. First Sentinel has been fighting to restore Audec-Hal’s for fifty years. His body is breaking down, and he has lost friends and his wife in this struggle. But although his body is wearing out, his passion burns as bright as ever. Alongside a small team of heroes—the Shields of Audec-Hal—(and a network of supporters, safe houses, and sources of intelligence), First Sentinel has a plan to finally overthrow the tyrants and restore the city.

- – -

Much like superheroes, Michael R. Underwood has two identities. By day, he is the North American Sales & Marketing Manager for Angry Robot Books, but by night (or whenever he has spare time, I assume), he is the author of the Ree Reyes urban fantasy series (Geekomancy, Celebromancy, and Attack the Geek) about magicians who channel the power of popular culture. Although Shield and Crocus is epic fantasy not urban fantasy, there is the same remixing of popular—or at least comics—culture that is perhaps becoming Underwood’s signature. Similarly, Underwood has written another fast, fun, and engaging book.

Shield and Crocus begins with a “spark storm”: an eruption of magic and violence that warps, distorts, and mutates anything and anyone caught in its path. The Shields respond as best as they can, given their limited numbers. But this is only the beginning of the chaos and danger. The tyrants are planning a summit, finally coming together, stopping their infighting, and aligning their interests and security efforts. If the summit is a success, it could mean the end of the Shields. But First Sentinel was touched by the spark long ago, unleashing a powerful ability that also carries high risk. Maybe it’s enough to take down the tyrants, but what will it cost him this time?

Shield and Crocus moves quickly from the opening chapters to the final chapter with plenty of bam-pow action sequences that one would expect from a comic-book-as-novel. But that path is not always the cleanest or most direct. Underwood switches among points of view from chapter to chapter, and due to the similarities between Shields’ hero names and real names, I stumbled once or twice switching back and forth. In a crowded action sequence, it got a little jumbled in my opinion. Additionally, the book contains a few extraneous chapters from the villains’ point of view that introduced elements that never quite paid off or were resolved.

That being said, a few rough edges shouldn’t detract from what was a great way to start my summer reading. Get your popcorn ready and grab a copy of Shield and Crocus. Summer is here, and summer reads don’t come much more enjoyable than this.
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