K.T. Ivanrest's Reviews > Shard & Shield

Shard & Shield by Laura VanArendonk Baugh
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really liked it


Okay, I'm fine.

Shard & Shield is one of the most character-driven fantasy novels I've ever read, and I mean that in the best way. There's no single big bad villain or impending world destruction. The war the characters are fighting has been going on for a long time, and we see its effects and toll most clearly in the lives of the characters, who represent both sides of the conflict and various levels of commitment to and experience with the fighting—from idealistic mage Ariana to career soldier and now commander Shianan to seasoned yet weary warrior Tamaryl.

For me, the heart of this story is the (often broken or tenuous) relationships. As the bastard son of the king, Shianan is a possible political threat, and every relationship he has—his developing bond with Ariana; his complicated friendship with his new slave, Luca; his relationships with his soldiers and fellow officers—is tainted by the desire to please his father and the fear of making one wrong move. Add to that Shianan's awkward and sometimes downright humiliating interactions with his royal family members, and it's a miracle he doesn't drink even more. I have to call out Shianan/Luca as one of my favorite literary friendships, particularly the way their respective family troubles influence their relationship. I'm also looking forward to more (view spoiler), because watching Shianan squirm is super fun.

The story has a gritty, honest, real-world feel, but while there's violence and some other intense situations, I didn't think the descriptions every strayed too far or elaborated too much. Baugh gives just enough to let the reader's imagination do the rest, and it works very well in the difficult scenes. I also appreciated that, amidst many moral dilemmas and complicated situations, there were moments of honesty where characters acknowledged that they were doing (or complicit in) something wrong, even if for the right reasons.

All in all, this is a consistently engaging story with beautifully realized characters and heaps of angst. Can't wait for Blood & Bond!

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Reading Progress

May 18, 2019 – Shelved
May 18, 2019 – Shelved as: to-read
June 5, 2019 – Started Reading
June 5, 2019 –
June 24, 2019 –
June 26, 2019 –
June 27, 2019 –
July 2, 2019 – Finished Reading

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