Military Fantasy: Who ‘da Thunk?

by wlancehunt in Books, fantasy

When I first opened my copy of Shields in Shadow by Andy Peloquin, I wasn’t sure I’d like it. It’s described as military fantasy. I’d heard of military Sci-Fi but had never read any. Wasn’t even sure what either was. The cover reinforced my doubt: a nighttime shot of a soldier looking over his shoulder with spear in hand, a full moon, and a blur across it: Dramatic. The title shined with a metallic font.

I lean Lev Grossman and Philip Pullman any more.

But, it was a free first book of a series from an author I’d bumped into a couple of times in FB groups, one where he talked about some ideas that he was using. I got the impression he was lifting them from old Lee Marvin/Ernest Borgnine movies—the Dirty Dozen came to mind. He’d been kind enough to forward me his free book, and I’d recently been surprised by liking a Time-travel Romance series, which shocked me.

So, Military Fantasy—Why not?

The story opens, as I half expected, with a battle scene. In this case, an ambush, with plenty of blood, heroism, impossible odds, and the near-death of the hero. I didn’t give it much of a chance to win me over.

Then the story began to unfold.

As I started sinking into the story, the ideas—the misfit team, pulled together as a longshot, last chance to save the country—felt familiar, even comfortable, even though transplanted from a WWII setting to a fantastic other-world. In the training camp, the characters became three dimensional. That’s when the book put its hooks in me. That’s when I started wanting to know what was going to happen.

I started stealing time, so get a chapter in here, lap up a few paragraphs there. Sure, I knew the hero would have to live—it’s a series— but not how he squeaks by, nor what scars he’d have to carry. And as in any war movie, people do die. All the heroes of those movies from my childhood didn’t live either. Who’d live who’d die, and how it’d happen were always in question. Some were sad deaths. Others felt very deserving.

In the end, I really enjoyed the time I spent in the world of Shields in Shadow. I got invested in something I would never have thought possible. Now, I’m looking forward to the next book, and that is probably a bigger surprise. Almost as big as having enjoyed a time travel romance series: I can’t tolerate romance. Or so I thought. Nothing like rattling strongly held beliefs in reading.

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