Review of A Vanishing Glow by Alexis Radcliff

A Vanishing Glow is the first self-published novel I’ve reviewed at the blog (I did review a self-published graphic novel). It shows with an utterly wretched cover and wretched map. The words on the inside, though, are another story. The writing is technically proficient—more than proficient—and wouldn’t look out of place in a traditionally published work. The early modern setting (A Vanishing Glow is billed as Flintlock Fantasy, but perhaps better fits as Steampunk or Clockpunk) is complex and dynamic. The characters are likeable (albeit with one major complaint), and the magic system interesting and well used. The plot, on the other hand, does have some issues.

Vanishing Glow cover

Jason Tern has returned to civilization from fighting on the frontier with his Windriders at the behest of his childhood friend Nole. Nole is taking his father’s position as High Sovereign of the Federation and wants Tern to take his place as Lord Regent. The position comes with a seat on a council deeply divided by tensions between the growing, industrialized west and a more traditionally powerful east becoming inundated with migrants from the west. Nole threatens to upset this delicate balance with his reformist notions, and the Federation is young yet. Meanwhile, a young sapper in the army named Nilya invents a device that could have far-reaching implications and a hard-bitten reporter named Hugh sees something he should not have seen.

The Federation has early modern technology, with flintlock pistols and muskets. It is also rapidly industrializing thanks to “mystech.” Magic-infused crystals which can be used to power anything from lights to brass construct arms.

A Vanishing Glow is dragged down mightily by the fact that for the large bulk of the book, Jason Tern at no point does anything that isn’t idiotic. The best that can be said is that Tern isn’t given the Idiot Ball to temporarily carry to advance the plot. No, it’s an all the time thing, so that’s just characterization. The second, and secondary, POV character Nilya is much more compelling. Unfortunately, her storyline only tangentially connects with the primary storyline. (Hugh, on the other hand, interacts directly with Tern).

It’s a strong plot overall, although it starts a bit slow and has issues in spots. It’s technically two books in a single volume, I guess, although they stand together much better than they would apart. The story ends with a satisfying conclusion but sets the stage for the series to continue.

I received a copy of A Vanishing Glow from the author.

3/5 Stars.


About H.P.

Blogs on books at Every Day Should Be Tuesday (speculative fiction) and Hillbilly Highways (country noir and nonfiction).
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