40041298._sy475_A strikingly original Icelandic debut set in a strangely familiar alternate Reykjavik where wild and industrialised magic meet.

Perfect for fans of contemporary fantasy in the style of Lev Grossman’s The Magicians or China Mieville’s The City & The City

Sæmundur the Mad, addict and sorcerer, has been expelled from the magical university, Svartiskóli, and can no longer study galdur, an esoteric source of magic. Obsessed with proving his peers wrong, he will stop at nothing to gain absolute power and knowledge, especially of that which is long forbidden.

Garún is an outcast: half-human, half-huldufólk, her very existence is a violation of dimensional boundaries, the ultimate taboo. A militant revolutionary and graffiti artist, recklessly dismissive of the status quo, she will do anything to achieve a just society, including spark a revolution. Even if she has to do it alone.

This is a tale of revolution set in a twisted version of Reykjavik fuelled by industrialised magic and populated by humans, interdimensional exiles, otherworldly creatures, psychoactive graffiti and demonic familiars.

Source Format Pages Publisher Genre Publication Date
Netgalley eARC 528 Gollancz SciFi/Fantasy July 25th, 2019

I am quite positive that I have never read anything quite like Shadows of the Short Days. The book has a mystical and rustic and oppressive feel to it. Like the tones of doom metal on a dark-dark winter’s eve- slow tempo, despair and darkness, impending doom.

See the closing of the blurb:

This is a tale of revolution set in a twisted version of Reykjavik fuelled by industrialised magic and populated by humans, interdimensional exiles, otherworldly creatures, psychoactive graffiti and demonic familiars.

This is exactly what Shadows of the Short Days is- one of the best summaries of a book that captures all of its themes. It’s a mix of real, contemporary world with blurring lines into magic used mostly to summon demons for selfish agendas, and stepping through to another dimension. A dimension that sounds like the underbelly of reality.

The contemporary, industrial world on this book is truly inspired by the current events of the world: alienation of peoples who do not fit into society according to the government or ‘normal’ people, the iron fisted rule of the government, the anxiety and unrest in society caused by the ones who want to bring about change and the ones who side with the powers that be. Sounds like the daily evening news…

With the addition of the otherworldly aspect, Shadows of the Short Days has a lot going on. The demonic familiars require blood sacrifices and the psychoactive graffiti with the purpose to influence other people also affects the one who carries the ‘tainted’ graffiti paint.

The clash of the these two very different yet interweaved worlds create the aspect of horror and grimness like no other. I felt like it was constantly dark. dark, dark, dark. And the contemporary feel in fantasy, especially a fantasy as dark as this, feels strange… you’d expect swords and sorcery not political rallies, nightclubbing and sorcery?! Nonetheless, it’s a fresh and, dare I say, Icelandic approach to fantasy.

The characters…Sæmundur is probably one of the most selfish characters I’ve ever read about. Talk about walking over everyone and everything to get what he wants. The cruelty he imposes on living beings without a shred of consideration is shocking. When most books try to pin any redeeming qualities to the evil characters, just to make the reader wobble behind their moral compass, Sæmundur is just straight out psycho! We simply can’t explain away his tendencies to madness… his madness is his psycho.

Garún belongs to one of those groups of people who are ‘not accepted’ by the ‘normal’ society. And like any alienated group needs someone to stand up for their rights, Garún is leading the fight against the government policies. It’s interesting to see how the fight for something good eventually starts to blur the line that limits the use of dark forces… anything for the greater good?! Questionable… Garún’s story is interesting and she has a big mission on her shoulder. No leader ever had it easy.

There were a lot of elements that I enjoyed in this book that worked well, but at times I thought things went on for too long. The long, descriptive scenes overtook the plot and focus of the story which ultimately was the last – but also first and only- nail in the coffin that took away from enjoyment for me. Having said that, the writing is solid- you can feel the author moving through the story with a purposeful stride and a clear vision.

Tons and piles and heaps of potential in this book. Will definitely appeal to an audience of readers who enjoy being firmly planted in the moment of a dark Reykjavik, both in this and the other dimension. The premise remains interesting, wrapped in a foggy shroud of pulse-pumping fight against the system. I can respect that! I do respect that!