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The Dark Shore
Dominions of Irth, Book 1

Adam Lee
Avon EOS Books, 494 pages

The Dark Shore
Adam Lee
Adam Lee is better known as A. A. Attanasio who work includes the series Radix Tetrad composed of Radix (1981), In Other Worlds (1984), Arc of the Dream (1986) and The Last Legends of Earth (1989). Another series, Arthor, is made up of Kingdom of the Grail (1992), The Dragon and the Unicorn (1994), Arthor (1995) and The Eagle and the Sword (1997). Single novels include Wyvern (1988), Hunting the Ghost Dancer (1991) and Solis (1994). The title of a story collection is Beastmarks (1984). The UK editions of The Dark Shore and The Shadow Eater appear with A. A. Attanasio's name, while the US versions use the Adam Lee pseudonym.

Adam Lee
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Past Feature Reviews
A review by Robert Francis

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The Dark Shore (Book 1 of the Dominions of Irth) is a tale of revenge, survival, and rebirth, where an entire society is overturned overnight by a former outcast. The survivors of the cataclysm find that the only hope of re-instating the old order lies in abandoning its dogmas. 

Although I enjoyed the book, in summarizing it, I keep feeling a sense of deja vu.  Some of the sub-plots seem a bit familiar. For example, woven into this tale are a pair of pre-destined soul-mates (from opposite ends of the social spectrum) searching to find their mutual destiny, not to mention each other, in the ruins of their world. There is a thief/philosopher, with a heart of gold, who searches for the meaning of an oracle's pronouncement that the manner of the thief's death will determine if he is truly human.  There is an amnesiac searching for clues to his lost past. There is a mystic/mentor/ex-assassin searching to honor old loyalties and to correct one big, personal mistake.  All these people are, knowingly and unknowingly, searching for each other. For, if they come together at just the right times and in just the right places, they have a slim chance of triumphing over the evil which threatens to destroy their world.  Which brings us to the villain.  He's not really searching for anything other than revenge.  He's a twisted wretch who can't own up to his own shortcomings and inadequacies, but rather blames them on the society that had the gall not to let him conquer it the first time he tried.  Of course, he was given the opportunity to try again. 

Although this may sound a bit formulaic, Mr. Lee puts it all together well and delivers a good story.  A measure of his success is that while reading the book, I didn't sit there saying, "hmmm, this reads a bit like..."   Part of this is due to the interesting world-system into which Mr. Lee has set this story.  Irth is a world rich in magic, or "Charm" as the natives put it.  Charm is provided to this world by the "Abiding Star" which rises and sets each day and whose light provides Charm to certain types of gems, metals, other artifacts, and very rarely directly to certain people.  Irth is the closest world to the Abiding Star, and so is just inundated with Charm. Other worlds are not so lucky.

I must admit, I get a bit nervous when I see a 500 page book advertised as "Book 1".  With few exceptions, one is generally left with main plot lines dangling everywhere, and at least one main character in an apparently untenable position.  Not to mention that the reader is usually left wondering if the next book will provide sufficient closure, or at least direction, to allow a tentative determination of whether we're actually enjoying things.

Fortunately, Mr. Lee has not followed this path.  The Dark Shore tells a straight-forward, self-contained story.  Anyone picking up this book will be treated to a well developed plot, with a definite close, set in a very interesting cosmology.  I am not sure I followed all of the intricacies of Mr. Lee's Irth, and perhaps more will become clear to me in later books. However, my lack of understanding of some of the details of his world-system in no way hindered my ability to follow and enjoy the story.

One thing I definitely did not understand though is why a "Cast of Characters" was included at the beginning.  Some people view this as evidence of a story so convoluted it needs a scorecard to keep the players straight.  If this concerns you, don't worry -- almost half of the specific characters listed in the "Cast" are dead within the first 100 pages. Actually, I suspect that the inclusion of the "Cast" was not Lee's idea. If it was, he should have more faith in his story-telling ability.  I had no problem following the main characters, and remembering those who contribute to the story, even if the contribution was relatively minor.

I did occasionally notice that Lee's narrative style changed.  Perhaps intensify would be a better description.  At times it seemed very stylized, especially with backdrops or settings. On occasion I found the transition somewhat jarring, and would have to go back and re-read to make sure I hadn't missed something important. I do not know if this is something Lee is experimenting with for the first time, or if he has used this convention in earlier books, because I have not read any of his other works.   I mention this because "Adam Lee" is a pseudonym for an author who already has an impressive track record.  Knowing who he is, however, is not a pre-requisite for enjoying The Dark Shore.

I look forward to reading the sequel but, since The Dark Shore is self-contained, I can only guess what the story-line will be.  To Mr. Lee's credit, several of the minor plot devices are rich enough that they could be easily developed into stories of their own, and I suspect that this is what will happen.  In any event, I look forward to finding out.

Copyright © 1998 by Robert Francis

Robert Francis is by profession a geologist, and, perhaps due to some hidden need for symmetry, spends his spare time looking at the stars. He is married, has a son, and is proud that the entire family would rather read anything remotely resembling literature than watch Jerry Springer.


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