Shattered Walls, Book 4 of Ulff Lehmann’s Light in the Dark Book series, released this November, 2022. This post reviews Book 1, Shattered Dreams, to lure dark fantasy readers into the Dark. Do you like Tolkien-esque worlds with a unique perspective, perhaps sprinkled with Grimdark battle and horror? Shattered Dreams will whet your appetite. It’s a fresh, dark spin on traditional fiction. You’ll be thrown into a mire of fractured perspectives and nightmares, and Lehmann controls the process of refining it all with a host of characters (the cursed Drangar Ralgon stealing the limelight). You’ll enjoy this if you enjoy mysteries, brutal melee, and Elvin worlds.
Shattered Dreams Cover Blurb
Epic Fantasy filled to the brim with Grimdark Reality.
If one looks too long into the abyss, the abyss looks back. Drangar Ralgon has been avoiding the abyss’s gaze for far too long and now he turns to face it. For a hundred years the young kingdom of Danastaer has thrived in peace. Now their northern neighbor, mighty Chanastardh, has begun a cunning invasion. Thrust into events far beyond his control, the mercenary Drangar Ralgon flees his solitary life as a shepherd to evade the coming war and take responsibility for his crimes.
In Dunthiochagh, Danastaer’s oldest city, the holy warrior Kildanor uncovers the enemy’s plans for invasion. As ancient forces reach forth to shape the world once more, the sorceress Ealisaid wakes from a century of hibernation only to realize the Dunthiochagh she knew is no more. Magic, believed long gone, returns, and with it comes an elven wizard sent to recover a dangerous secret.
World Building & Puzzling Style
Shattered Dreams introduces readers to lots of sundered bits of information, ranging from echoes of epic warfare to the intimate mysteries of a cursed character’s plight. The fun is experiencing it clarify. Each chapter rotates points-of-view from all sorts of perspectives. The introductory prologue is a bit heavy on background; in short, a nation of mostly humans is rebuilding civilization after a series of epic conflicts (the Heir War, a war of wizards, and a demonic invasion). Dangerous relics of the past obviously resurface. Chapter one is still diversionary, with a dose of how grim elves can be and a reminder that supernatural powers are boiling under the surface of everything. Chapter 2 (which is the third section) we get introduced to our primary protagonist….
Drangar Ralgon is a recluse veteran haunted by his past, and he really shines as the main character. His memories and present nightmares are difficult for him to process, but as a reader you’ll be along his side trying to do just that. As soon as you get introduced to him, you’ll want to learn more about why he’s so haunted. When you learn that his past is woven with the Heir/Wizard/Demon wars…you’ll be rooting for him. It will take about 25% of the book for all the pieces to begin gelling.
Grim Take on a Familiar Milieu
Despite the familiar setting of man, demon, and elves acting as a foundation, it’s all shown in a different light. The Elves are a darker set of folk here than the tropes, many using children’s sacrificial blood to fuel magic….and we learn they also apparently ran away during the Heir and/or Wizard Wars; at first this “elven retreat” reminded me of Tolkien’s Undying Lands, but Lehmann actually shows the readers via several character’s perspectives. It’s a mysterious place, but you’ll gain access to it.
It All Coalesces
All the various perspectives and the shattered mysteries of Drangar’s past resolve in the city Dunthiochagh. You’ll be left wanting for even more though, and the series delivers.
There are too many exclamation points; Lehmann’s writing is solid and need not rely on them. Also, I grew strangely attached to a squirrel character; I liked its setup as much as Drangar Ralgon’s, but without spoiling, I do not expect any more focus on it-who-had-a-bright-future (sigh). The strength of Shattered Dreams is its deep world-building, but its epic-ness can be challenging too. I’m not a linguist, but its nomenclature for places & characters resonant vibes from Welsh/Irish/British (another potential Tolkien vibe); however, the abundance of consonants, length of words, and the fact that most start with B, C, or D made it challenging for me to get a feel for the place (or I got confused about who/what I was being referred to). This list provides some of the key players/places:
- Drangar Ralgon (mysterious protagonist, with roots in the city …
- Dunthiochagh (the oldest city in the nation of Danastaer)
- Jesgar Garinad (spy within Dunthiochagh)
- Cumaill Duasonh, Baron of Higher Cherkont and Boughaighr (with a cousin named Braigh)
- Urgraith Mireynh, High General of the armies of Chanastardh
- Church of Eanaigh
Elf, Demon, More-than-Human:
- Kildanor, Chosen of Lesganagh (Sun and War God); the Chosen are humans who live a long time…unless butchered.
- Ealisaid (Phoenix Wizardess; a Lainthraght/Lightbringer)
- Priests of Jainagath (Deathmasks, have extending lives due to their worship/allegiance)
- Lloreanthoran (an elf)
- Danachamain had opened the Scales-cursed gates long ago
Expect more in Ulff Lehmann’s Light in the Dark Series
Browsing the blurbs of the subsequent books, we learn the whole series coalesces around Drangar Ralgon journey, which is most welcome:
- Shattered Dreams (Light in the Dark Book 1) Mar 16, 2018
- Shattered Hopes (Light in the Dark Book 2) Aug 25, 2018
- Shattered Fears (Light in the Dark Book 3) Sep 3, 2019
- Shattered Walls (Light in the Dark Book 4) Nov 2022
About Ulff Lehmann
German-born but English writing author, Ulff Lehmann, was raised reading, almost any and everything, from the classic Greek to Roman to Germanic myths to more appropriate fiction for children his age. Initially devouring books in his native language, he switched to reading English books during a year-long stay in the USA as a foreign exchange student.
In the years since, he has lost count of the books he has read, unwilling to dig into the depths of his collection. An avid fantasy reader, he grew dissatisfied with the constant lack of technological evolution in many a fantasy world, and finally, when push came to shove, he began to realize not only his potential as a storyteller but also his vision of a mythical yet realistic world in which to settle the tale in he had been developing for 20 years.
S.E. Lindberg is a Managing Editor at Black Gate, regularly reviewing books and interviewing authors on the topic of “Beauty & Art in Weird-Fantasy Fiction.” He is also the lead moderator of the Goodreads Sword & Sorcery Group and an intern for Tales from the Magician’s Skull magazine. As for crafting stories, he has contributed six entries across Perseid Press’s Heroes in Hell and Heroika series, has an entry in Weirdbook Annual #3: Zombies He independently publishes novels under the banner Dyscrasia Fiction; short stories of Dyscrasia Fiction have appeared in Whetstone, Swords & Sorcery online magazine, Rogue In the House Podcast’s A Book of Blades, DMR’s Terra Incognita, and (soon) the 9th issue of Tales From the Magician’s Skull.