Shadows of Ivory by T. L. Greylock and Bryce O’Connor — Book Review
“Knowledge is my greatest treasure. But it is also my greatest weakness. And now that I am here, now that I have been led to the vault out there,” she went on, gesturing to the lake, “I cannot let it go.”
Shadows of Ivory by T.L. Greylock (and publishing partner Bryce O’Connor), is the first installment in The Godforged series. Greylock describes this book as ‘Indiana Jones meets Renaissance Italy’, and if ever there were a description that could entice me into wanting to read a book, that would be it. I’m already a big fan of the Indiana Jones franchise (apart from the fourth film which I will not utter hear of) and when coupled with the gorgeous cover art, both the original by Billy Christian and the new design by YAM and Shawn King… well I couldn’t wait to get my hands on a copy.
It all begins with theft. In the opening chapter, the reader finds themselves following Eska de Caraval, our main protagonist, as she escapes the clutches of the Iron Baron, along with his priceless reliquary. We quickly discover that Eska is no mere thief after riches though – she is in fact working as an archaeologist in her family’s Firenzia Company. Unbeknown to Eska, the reliquary holds more significant value and is far more dangerous than she could ever fathom. Following on from there is a turbulent journey as Eska and her rival Manon traverse the Seven Cities searching for more treasures. Eska embarks upon an excavation in Toridium, in the hopes of finding ancient pottery of importance, yet what she uncovers may just bring about the fall of the entire Seven Cities. The story is far more complex than this, but I don’t wish to give anything else away.
It’s fair to say the first half of this novel is slow-paced, and it does take a while for the plot to start to come together, but this by no means was a negative aspect for me. You see, Greylock spends a lot of time building up the political players of the world and the wonderful cast of characters – there may only be three main POVs, but in Shadows of Ivory, the side characters, even the fleeting ones who only enter a scene or two, are just as well constructed and fleshed out.
Our first main protagonist Eska, who is the driving force of the novel, sees the world through a scholar’s eye – a place to be sifted for nuggets of knowledge, and to gain a deeper understanding. I loved Eska’s passionate personality and her strong will to overcome any obstacle set before her. Whereas our second protagonist Manon, who took some time for me to warm to, is a more fiery force of nature – she’s quick-tempered and certainly narrow-minded in her quest to regain her family’s wealth and status.
Then there was Albus, our loveable librarian! I absolutely adored his character – his bookish ways and his naive view of the world made him the kind of character that you immediately want to protect at all costs. His scenes always delivered a lovely dose of humour which I very much appreciated. I would say here that Albus needed to shine more, despite him having his own POV, I felt we didn’t get enough time with his character even though his narrative is prominent.
‘Fourteen pairs of eyes stared across the deck at Albus. Some were resentful, some fearful. All were making it abundantly clear that they did not trust Albus with their lives. And why should they? He was not of their crew. He was a stranger, a temporary passenger. Worst of all, he preferred the company of books to the company of people.’
I have previously mentioned the side characters in Shadows of Ivory play key roles too, and I’m utterly impressed by the way Greylock managed to make me feel invested by them all. The three characters whom I found most noteworthy were Perrin, Eden and Alexandre (Sascha). Perrin is (and excuse the cliche) a lost soul, I very much enjoyed his arc development which took quite the turn near the end. I have many theories on where his narrative will lead in the next installment – eek! Eden on the other hand is a man of much more mystery, and I don’t entirely trust him yet. But his interactions with Eska made my cold heart melt a little – but is he too good to be true? As for Alexandre, his presence in the earlier part of the novel was fascinating, I adored him. Kind, gentle, endearing – a soldier who never wanted to fight, yet was damn good at it, his backstory intrigued me no end. However, his narrative kind of trailed off in the second half, so I hope to see him develop more throughout the rest of the series.
As you can see Greylock writes characters with such flair.
Through Eska’s chapters, it also becomes abundantly clear that her character not only harbours a deep passion, bordering on obsession, for archeology but she also illustrates great respect for it. All of which I found truly refreshing. Greylock deals with important themes such as the morality of taking holy artifacts away from the cultures they rightfully belong to, either to sell them or display in museums, and I loved how thought-provoking this was. I did a bit of research myself, (I asked Laura Hughes and we interviewed Taya on The Fantasy Hive!) because I was curious whether Greylock also shared this love and where her inspiration for this theme came from. It turns out that Greylock undertook a MA in Classical Archaeology at university in London, and is an official archaeologist! And to her credit, her knowledge of the subject really shows within the narrative.
Many of the scenes are rich with culture; from the twin deities of ‘Onaxos’ – ‘Toora ’& ’Taalo’ and all the mythology behind their story, to the picturesque descriptions of Eska’s homeland and other sites of the Seven Cities. History is also an important theme throughout – not only in the main narrative, and the histories of cultures and artifacts which are uncovered, but also within the character’s pasts. Here is where I must note how much I enjoyed reading the interludes, which is something I thought I’d never say, as usually interludes have the effect of pulling me out of the story. However, Greylock’s interludes are a series of articles, letters, reports, and journal entries. They work not only to enrich the story with historical background, but they also provide much-needed backstory to the characters and even to the magic system.
As for the magic system, Greylock introduces the concept of Carriers – those who are believed to be marked by divinity and can wield fire or water, and even possibly more. They are known to have inhuman insight and perception. At first the magic system felt vague and not a particularly prominent aspect, yet during the second half we really sink our teeth into the concept of carriers and it became greatly fascinating. Greylock’s writing is immersive to say the least, and throughout the entire novel I felt a strong compulsion to read on and discover more. The ending was left wide open and surely sets up the sequel to be an epic one.
‘Dig well, my love. I hope you find a lost civilization – or at least an interesting tool or piece of pottery from which your remarkable mind can gleam astounding things.’
Puzzles aplenty, monsters, magic wielding, culture and history – are these ticking your boxes? Well, allow me to tell you that Shadows of Ivory is a captivating fantasy, one that’s filled with charismatic characters and a plot that will fill the hearts of treasure-hunting quest fans with glee. Move over Dr Jones, Eska de Caravel is here now.
Arc provided by the author – TL Greylock, in exchange for an honest review.
Thank you for the copy Taya.
Shadows of Ivory is out today and you can order your copy here