If war shapes the universe, truth destroys it.
A criminal becomes a leader, hiding a tiny colony of survivors from the savagery of twisted men.
A smuggler harbours refugees from a brutal attack on their defenceless village.
A young boy, wracked by loss, now seeks revenge.
A servant of the Magistratus, a lawman who once believed in justice, searches for the truth behind the planet his masters will kill to hide.
A stim-addicted navigator, haunted by her past, wants answers. Why she was chosen to ride with a salvage crew destined to die in a remote, nameless part of space.
And a spy is blackmailed into informing against those he serves. What he knows could bring about the end of the Republic.
All will be drawn together by hidden forces, and their lives shattered by cataclysmic events they can neither predict... nor escape.
About the Author
Lucas Bale writes the sort of intense, gripping science-fiction thrillers which make you miss your train. Stories which dig into what makes us human and scrape at the darkness which hides inside every one of us. His bestselling debut novel, THE HERETIC, is the gateway to the award-winning BEYOND THE WALL series, an epic hard science-fiction space opera about the future of humanity and the discovery of the truth of its past. He wasn't always a writer. He was a criminal lawyer for fifteen years before he discovered crime doesn't pay and turned to something which actually pays even less. No one ever said he was smart, but at least he's happy. He blushes when people mention him in the same sentence as Iain M. Banks or George R. R. Martin, bless him.
[Note: I received a copy of this book from the author for review. I have also collaborated with Lucas Bale on the anthology, No Way Home.]
One of the great joys in discovering a fresh, new voice early on in their career is being able to watch and read how they have developed as an author over time. When I met Lucas Bale a year ago on KBoards and became familiar with his work via The Heretic, his first release, I was impressed with the crisp writing and clear authorial voice, as well as an engaging story that held so much promise for future works. I was eager to see where he would go, and I absolutely loved his second book, Defiance. And I'm not saying all this because I consider Lucas a friend, nor because we've worked together in the past and will again in the near-future. I'm approaching these works as a reader, first and foremost, as well as, now, a fan.
As such, I hope it is with a measure of trust between us, dear reader, when I say that A Shroud of Night and Tears is by far his most accomplished work. In fact, I feel somewhat urged to not give this book five stars, simply because Bale gets better and better with each work. I could rightly give this title four starts knowing full-well that, in all due likelihood, his next book will top this. If I keep giving him five stars, where the hell does he go from there? This is likely a problem many of his fans face, as well, so perhaps there is some commiseration to be had. Still, I'm giving it those coveted 5-stars because it's easily one of the best sci-fi titles I've read this year, and one of the strongest space opera books I've read in ages. It is, in short, phenomenal!
Those readers that were disappointed by the sudden change in characters in Defiance and the brief pause to tell a new story with the lawman, Weaver, and his prey, Natasha, will be heartened to know that Shepherd, Jordi, and the preacher from The Heretic all make their return here, in addition to those fresh, new faces introduced in the previous book.
A Shroud of Night and Tears provides an awesome landscape in which to unite these disparate figures, pitting them together in a scenario that remarkably shifts the series' overarching threat into something far grander than I had initially expected at the outset of Beyond The Wall. I know this sounds vague, but I'm trying to avoid spoilers, because there is such a huge plot development in this penultimate work that twists everything I thought I knew about what was happening into something very, very different.
In addition to elevating this developing story to a higher plane, Bale also manages to up the ante on a personal level, as well. There are threats galore, and back-stabbings aplenty, in addition to attempted murder by backpack bombs, and a few other surprises that I shall not spoil. Let's just say that uniting all these various personalities from the prior two books under the umbrella of a larger, looming nightmare does not make everything all hunky-dory. These are characters with conflicting personalities and personal agendas of their own, which provides a strong, tense backdrop to the proceedings. I really liked the espionage-like tone that Weaver's mission took on in the book's latter half, giving it a sort of Mission: Impossible vibe that I truly dug.
So, there's one more book to go in this Beyond The Wall series, and I fully expect it to be wrought with peril and adventure. How Bale will tie everything up is the big question, and I can only hope there isn't too long of a wait.