The once-glorious Barony of Kell is a ruin of its former self, assailed by banditry and famine; its noble Baron Frederic is caught between saving his people and defending his borders. Yet worse is to come… for a new Darkness is rising. Sadistic warrior-priestess, Ne’Krul, spying an opportunity to wreak bloody vengeance on behalf of her demonic masters, leads her Uthuk warband into a brutal invasion. Kell’s only hope lies in holy warrior, Andira Runehand, and legendary hero, Trenloe the Strong, both drawn to Kell to defeat an alliance of evil unprecedented in Terrinoth. They must not fail.
I was given an Advanced Reader Copy of The Shield of Daqan by Aconyte Books in return for an unbiased review. My thanks go to both Aconyte Books for sending me a copy and to author David Guymer for reaching out. As such, my review doesn’t take into account any spelling or grammatical errors – not that I tend to pick up on these in other reviews, but I thought it worth mentioning.
The Shield of Daqan is quite honestly, one of the best books I’ve had the pleasure to read this year – which is something of a bold statement considering some of the delights that I’ve had the good fortune to devour! Set in the same world as the hugely popular world of Descent: Journeys in the Dark – The Shield of Daqan is, at it’s very core, a story of good vs evil; heroes against demonic hordes.
Too explain the plot in such simple terms however, is doing the story a great disservice as there is so much more than ‘the basics.’
The heroes all have their own different flavours to them. We’re initially introduced to one called Trenloe the Strong and his roving band of mercenaries called The Companions (of Trenloe) as they’re escorting a band of refuges from their bandit ridden homes to the sanctuary of Kell – a more prosperous neighbouring county. In no time at all, we’re given a display of why Trenloe is known as ‘the Strong.’ He is an instantly likeable central character and is easy to root for. Although not the brightest spark his heart is in the right place and he tends to do what is right for the people around him; despite the attempts to reign him in by his Dwarven partner Dremmin. Another fantastically written character in her own right. The balance of these two characters sets The Shield of Daqan off to a captivating start, Trenloes optimism and cheer is off-set by Dremmins more cynical approach to situations. Right from the first Chapter I felt a strong (pun intended) connection to these central characters, at every step I was eager to know what was going to happen to them.
Then, there is Andira Runehand, another legendary hero. If Trenloe the Strong is easy to get along with, Andira is almost the opposite; she is much more complicated to relate too but there is something fascinating about her. Her separate tale is captivating. She is cold and aloof and yet has scores of pilgrim followers that have flocked to her banner and worship her. The decisions she makes throughout The Shield of Daqan are driven by a single purpose; stop the Ynfernael. Whatever the cost. There are times when I was reeling about the choices that she made and the consequences they had for the other characters that have ‘allied’ with her; the Greyfox, Sarb, Sir Brodun and even the world weary Kurt – who I adored.
Alongside these heroes and their companions are a more human element to the population. The Barony of Kell, where the crux of the story happens, is run by Frederic and it is he and his homeland that bears the brunt of the Ynfernaels sinister plans.
I am always impressed when an author can convey different personalities of the characters within a book and this is something that I recall David Guymer doing in expert fashion in The Court of the Blind King. I am thrilled that he has been able to bring the magic of each of these characters to life. As they all have their own parts to play in The Shield of Daqan and each characters story is well weaved into the over-arching plot, nothing happens ‘for the sake of it’. The Shield of Daqan is very much a character driven story and each chapter is dedicated not only to a singular character and their plight but also the effect that they have on the ever advancing story.
The pacing of The Shield of Daqan is fast! To use the time-tested cliche, there is never a dull moment. The plot is driven forward through a series of smaller conflicts right to epic, large scale battles. Each situation is met by one of the heroes and solved (or not) in their own way. There’s even dragons to fight along the way! It’s an epic tale of sword and sorcery set in a captivating new world to explore.
Alongside the chapters from the heroes and companions perspective there is also insightful chapters with a focus on the traditional ‘bad-guy’ roles. In this case, Ne’Krul the Warrior Sorceress and Archerax. These are rarer than the hero chapters, but just as impressive in both characterful content and plot drive.
Considering The Shield of Daqan is a tie-in with the board game (Of which I’ve never had the pleasure of playing) I don’t know exactly how much world-building had already been done prior to this book. What we are given here seems to be a small section of a much broader world. The vast majority of the book is written in the Barony of Kell, but there are other areas of the world mentioned, giving the impression that the world is much bigger than just what we’re shown. What is written in The Shield of Daqan is richly described and leaves a vivid impression in the readers mind; the world setting is as wonderfully rendered as the characters personalities. A glorious treat to have such a fantastic cast playing within an incredibly written world.
An all-round winner! A Great cast of unconventional characters driving a fast-paced plot of heroes vs villains. Beautifully described in both world and character actions. The Shield of Daqan is a wonderfully written book that I encourage any fan of fantasy to pick up and read. I can only hope that there is going to be more to follow in this series.