Nether Light by Shaun Paul Stevens: Book Review

Nether Light follows Guyen, a young biracial man who is shipwrecked upon Sendal shores. Upon arriving in the city proper, he and his twin brother Yemeylan are thrown into Sendal’s working caste system, where people are given employment based on their Talents. 

This oil-light epic fantasy series feels like walking through the world as Daniel in Frictional Games’ Amnesia: The Dark Descent. This dark world, lit by harsh sodalamps and adorned with the 18th century’s iconic tricorne hats, hosts a decaying magic. Citizens are inoculated with a Concoction at birth to Bind them against a creeping pandemic that causes madness and turns them into creatures (the Unbound) that resemble the Grunts that haunt Daniel so.   

Guyen, who is of Krellan and Sendali descent, struggles to survive in a country where his heritage is looked down upon. Upon getting his Binding tested to receive his Sendali citizenship, it is discovered that he is Purebound: he is naturally resistant to the maddenings. He is shipped off to the Devotions, where he studies to become a Bindcrafter and seek the cure for Yemeylan, whose Binding is weakening and risks losing his citizenship and mind. 

Magic system nerds will surely be intrigued by Faze, the magic Guyen stumbles to learn alongside his other studies. Although Nether Light doesn’t dive too deeply into a hard magic system, it is hinted that there is surely more to come in additional Bindcrafter books. 

Should you pick up this book? 

This book will delight those who love delving into a fantasy world, Nether Light will be sure to satisfy. It is a slow burn novel that takes its time to reveal the true plot, which binds Guyen into politics, fantasy science, and the fate of the Binding. It is a leisurely stroll through the world as told through the eyes of a young foreigner.

Readers who enjoy The Stormlight Archive and who long for additional Flintlock fantasy will enjoy Nether Light. The slow pacing and exploration of Guyen’s daily life early on in the book will deter some readers, however, through Guyen the reader learns of the world and what is at stake. 

Nether Light is a delightful independent book by Shaun Paul Stevens that catapults it above many other independent fantasy books by the virtue of its impressive worldbuilding. You can buy it here from Amazon.

For those who prefer a faster-paced story, but who are interested in the Bindcrafter universe, readers may check out Deliverance at Van Demon’s Keep, which follows a Ranker named Kiprick. Kiprick must rescue miners who are trapped with Unbound, who have infiltrated the mine.

Review: Gerald’s Game

Gerald's GameGerald’s Game by Stephen King
Gerald’s Game is one of the few Stephen King novels I have not read, so when I picked it up I wasn’t quite sure what I was in for. It was one of those novels I was hesitant about picking up–how could King write 300 pages about a woman being tied to a bed, and still make it interesting?

Overshadowed by some of his more popular novels, such as IT, Gerald’s Game focuses less on horror of the alien and unknown and more on the horror of the self. The story follows a woman named Jessie, who travels to a cabin with her husband Gerald for a romantic getaway. To spice things up a bit Gerald handcuffs Jessie to the bed for some kinky sexytimes. Jessie, already unhappy with her marriage, has second thoughts about this “experiment” and asks Gerald to stop. When he refuses, Jessie kicks him. Gerald suffers a heart attack, leaving Jessie naked and handcuffed to the bed, unable to free herself or help Gerald, now dead on the floor.

Over the course of twenty-eight hours Jessie recalls her father’s sexual abuse, looks back closely on her life, and really, really wants a drink of water. All the while she fears being watched by an intruder in the house.

The story’s strengths lie in King’s oddly specific details, and the horror of a romantic getaway gone wrong, and Jessie’s deteriorating emotional state that eventually propels her into her escape. As Jessie lies there she remembers her past, which make up the bulk of the book.

It is no doubt horror. Horror not only from the claustrophobic situation, but of the situations leading up to it. A pattern of betrayal from men in her life she trusted–first her father, and then her husband refusing to stop his game when she asked. I ended up reading this book every night until I finished it in a week. However, I had to stop when Jessie escaped her handcuffs. Though I don’t normally get nauseated when reading horror, there was something very unnerving about the degloving scene. Because there is hardly an antagonist, save for the dog formerly known as Prince and the mysterious night-time visitor, the focus on the gory details lies as naked and exposed on the page as Jessie is on the bed.

The ending could have been stronger, and carries a similar tone to the ending of Misery: our hero escapes, but is no longer the same. The revelation of the identity of her mysterious visitor punctures the emotional fallout and resolution I was looking for.

Although not one of King’s better books, Gerald’s Game is a quick read and demonstrates King’s ability to delve into a character’s mind and spin it out into 300 pages. If you enjoyed Misery, then you might also enjoy this story, as it also takes place in one setting and focuses on internal character development. However, if another Pennywise you are looking for, then you may find yourself disappointed. Overall I enjoyed the story, and do not regret reading it.

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