Best Left in the Shadows
An Echo of the Ascended
by Mark Gelineau and Joe King
Fantasy | Novella | 80 Pages | Published by Gelineau and King in 2015
This book was received from Netgalley in return for an honest review
Gelineau and King take precedence over my reading pile as once again we return for a flying but highly satisfying visit to the world of Aedaron. Following the story of Alys, we are treated to another sub-genre shift as we enter Prionside in this fantastical detective noir, where the inhabitants of Highside and Lowside are divided by more than just distance.
Following my ever increasing enjoyment of the previous novellas, A Reaper of Stone and Rend the Dark, I had high hopes for another different but equally dazzling exploration of this dark and varied world. And Best Left in the Shadows does exactly this; with a feisty heroine and gritty urban setting, this short and satisfying read ticks another box for these talented and instantly addictive authors.
A Highside girl. Beaten. Murdered. Her body found on a Lowside dock. A magistrate comes looking for answers. For justice.
Alys trades and sells secrets among the gangs and factions of Lowside. She is a daughter of the underworld. Bold. Cunning. Free. When an old lover asks for help, she agrees. For a price.
Best Left in the Shadows follows the story of Alys, an intelligent and street-wise young woman who earns her living trading secrets amongst the underworld of Lowside. But when a daughter of the Highside nobility is found murdered on the docks in Prionside, and the magistrate called in to investigate is a man whose past is entangled with her own, Alys must lead him through a maze of canals, alleyways and underworld politics to solve the case and find justice for the murdered girl. But with a complicated past and secrets of their own, there is more to discover than just the author of this crime.
This latest novella introduces yet another aspect of the diverse and rich world of Aedaron, where this time we venture into a city of crime and vice, providing the perfect backdrop to this detective noir. Twisted and narrow alleyways, dark and dirty canals, sewerworks and sumpworks, brothels and taverns, all play an intrinsic role in building up this grimy, industrial landscape where if its not for sale, it can and will be taken by force. With a knife in the back or a bolt to the neck an ever present possibility, the narrative conjures a dangerous setting for any criminal investigation.
Gelineau and King once again do not fail to impress with their effortless depiction of this slum-like city; one which is entirely different to its predecessors but an intrinsic part of the whole. Their descriptions are effortless, their humour ever-present, and the introduction to new characters in a new corner of the world make for an excellent, if short, read. The brief but enticing mentions of Highside also leave an intriguing impression and will no doubt come into play during future novellas. I certainly cannot wait to see a clash between these two opposing sides of the city and society.
Whilst the myriad ne’er-do-wells of Prionside make for a colourful cast of characters that intrigue, excite and lend more than a handful of tension and drama to this fantastical crime novella, it is the protagonists of this tale which truly shine. Alys has a fantastic and almost comedic voice; her tone conveying a light-hearted side to a novella which would otherwise seem much darker. Along with Dax, our investigating magistrate, the two play off one another to leave an impression of two fascinating characters whose tangled web of history and secrets provide an intriguing aside to the main narrative and which are slowly revealed over the course of the novella. And with a great deal more still to discover about the pair, we’re left with an enticing hook for the next Alys novella.
Best Left in the Shadows in another fantastic addition to the authors’ repertoire and, with the creation of another distinct and well-realised aspect of an already impressive world, had me hooked on Alys’ story from the very start. Whilst the thought of formulating an intriguing detective story over so short a read seems nigh impossible, Gelineau and King manage to craft a mysterious and satisfying tale which wraps up neatly at its conclusion and leaves enough personal intrigue to draw you onto the next novella. As a lover of crime and detective fiction, I can only hope that this theme is here to stay.
If you love being able to slip into a world in a multitude of sub-genres, experience it through the eyes of different characters, explore its different towns and cities and meet its varied inhabitants, then I couldn’t recommend the Echoes of the Ascended novellas enough. Best Left in the Shadows is another fantastic addition to this highly enjoyable series and can either be read on its own or as part of the whole. Once again, I’ve come away impressed and even more addicted to this dangerously compelling world, and I cannot wait for my next adventure with Alys!