[Book Review] RealmShift, by Alan Baxter (independent)

Kudos to Alan for an interesting and gripping dark fantasy. Nice work.

RealmShift is the first of Alan Baxter‘s novel-length works that I have read. Having previously published his short fiction, I knew first-hand how talented he is. RealmShift confirmed to me that his abilities in long fiction are equally tight.

Not generally a big fan of dark fantasy, I put all my prejudices aside and dived in. It was a gripping and interesting tale right from the beginning; and the construct was nicely delivered.

RealmShift tells the story of Isiah and Samuel Harrigan, in a race against time – and Satan! – to make sure that events occur as they should, to retain the ‘balance’ in the universe. I’m not going to write anything more about the story itself because you have to read the book for that; suffice it to say that other characters get drawn into the struggle, and that, for a while, you are not sure which way the story will fall.

Baxter handled the multiple storylines with aplomb, and brought them together in the ‘home run’ of the story admirably. Like many other great writers before him – like Le Carre and Iain Banks – the final portion of Alan’s book was the best part.

For me personally, I found, despite how good this book was, that Baxter’s grip on his characters was with a light touch, as though his ink wouldn’t render them as completely as I personally need to engage with them. They weren’t one-dimensional, but they were lightly sketched. It felt to me that Baxter had to work to portray them.

Except for the character of Samuel Harrigan, that is. Harrigan, in contrast, to the other cast, completely leapt off the page. I suggest that Baxter enjoyed writing this character far more. Harrigan had a density and dimensionality that the other characters lacked.

As an editor, some superficial glitches (of which there were a lot!) annoyed me: missing apostrophes, misused apostrophes, verb-noun sequences that didn’t agree. These could have been fixed with a solid copy edit. I *really* struggle with books that contain unnecessary errors, but with RealmShift I was able to overlook them and just enjoy the story. Kudos indeed!

This is a fabulous book, I’m sad it took me so long to find the time to read it (took me a year to finish it, thanks to other things – though I never had to go back and re-read passages, which is a feat in itself on the author’s behalf!!), and I’m sad it’s over.

Now. Where’s the next one, MageSign… I think I need another fix.

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