Shatter War (Dana Fredsti & David Fitzgerald) – Review

Shatter War is the second volume in the Time Shards series, and returns readers to the future where time itself has been broken into pieces, and multiple time periods share the same world.

Whilst Shatter War is a second volume it actually managed to catch me up very quickly with what had come before. During an experiment to harness faster than light travel the timeline was broken, splitting the world into various different shards, places where different times exist. As a result, pre-historic animals, modern day cities, and medieval knights can all exist beside each other.

As the people across this broken world try to figure out what has happened, and in many cases struggle to survive, a small group has come together to try to repair this damage, before powerful aftershocks destroy the world completely. This group of heroes includes Dr Jonathan Meta, the 23rd century scientist who caused the event; Amber Richardson, from modern day, first century Celt Cam; world war two veteran Sergeant Blake; Victorian conman Professor Winston Harcourt; and nineteenth century journalist Nellie Bly.

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This mismatched team have a plan: get to the lab where things went wrong and fix stuff; but this doesn’t last particularly long into the book. Unfortunately for them they run afoul of Meta’s evil counterpart, Dr Colonel Janos Mehta. Now, it’s not really clear who this person is, except that he looks and sounds exactly like Meta, including his strange eyes, but comes from a different time where he’s an insane mass murder. What’s the most unclear, however, is if this is an ancestor of his from Meta’s past, or if he’s from an alternate timeline.

The book sets Mehta up to be the big villain in this book, and makes him the cause for everything that goes wrong for the group, with no explanation or reasoning for his being. This is made even worse within the last pages of the book. I won’t say exactly why, as it’s a big spoiler, but things get even more confusing.

Sadly, this Mehta/Meta confusion isn’t the only thing that makes the conclusion of the book a little disappointing. A few hundred pages of the weighty 500 page book are spent in establishing just how many warring factions are making a few of the time shards in Egypt their home, and is building the way towards a conflict. But the book doesn’t deliver on this. It’s coming, but apparently not in this book. I understand that this is a part of a series, but it really felt like the conflict between these time-displaced armies would be the conclusion for this book. It felt like the war in the title is missing.

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Whilst we are on the matter of the length of the book, there’s a lot in Shatter War that adds to the world; whole sections of the book where we leave the main characters behind to follow the inhabitants of the various shards. These can range from just a few pages to thirty or more. These sections create some background for the places and people that the heroes will encounter later on, but often the information presented here and the context given is stuff that comes up later on anyway. For example, we spend a while following a ship captain from ancient Egypt as he travels down the Nile for days, lost as he sails from shard to shard, before finally being discovered and captured by soldiers a thousand years from their future. Whilst there’s nothing wrong with this, we see this information relayed to the heroes later on, meaning there was no need to really see it.

This isn’t something that happens just the once, but several times across the book. We see events, then we see our heroes told about these events. This happens so often that it comes to feel that 100 or more pages are given over to these tangents. Whilst I didn’t mind one or two, it happens so often and adds so much to the length of the book that I couldn’t help but get bored by them, and even began to feel like it was being done for padding to add length to the book.

Whilst there was a lot about Shatter War that I enjoyed, especially the inclusion of the real life Nellie Bly (a totally amazing woman who should be taught about in schools!), there’s so much that’s left unexplained, and so much build-up for so small a pay off that it feels like nothing really happens for 500 pages. There may be another book coming that will answer these mysteries and give the reader a resolution, but I can’t see this being a popular middle part, as so much of this story could have been told in half the page count. Thankfully, I hadn’t read the first book, because after waiting a year and a half for another entry in the series I would have been disappointed that this is what I was given.

Shatter War is out now from Titan Books.

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