By Reese Hogan
- Shrouded Loyalties
Author: Reese Hogan
- Publisher: Angry Robot Books
- ISBN: 978-0857668295
- Published: August 2019
- Format reviewed: Paperback
- Review date: 19/07/2019
- Language: English
What is war good for? Not much, but it does advance some technologies faster than they might have been. Microwave technology, nuclear, plastic surgery – all have benefitted from being pushed by necessity. What about a war on a distant planet? Like here on Earth, any opposing armies will be looking for any advantage that they may gain over their enemy. Even if that means sending troops into a parallel dimension.
Mila Blackwood is a naval officer on a very special type of submarine. This vessel has the ability to travel underwater, but also to shroud. This is the process of moving into a parallel world and travel great distances in short time. This secret technology is the only thing preventing her nation being overrun by the powerful Dhavnak. Can Blackwood survive long enough to survive the war whilst also preventing the many secrets falling into the hands of Dhavnak Agents?
Rightly for a book that has submarines in it, Shrouded Loyalties by Reese Hogan starts off with a deep dive. The opening section is proudly military science fiction and it is up to the reader to keep up. You are introduced to a new world, new characters and new technologies within pages. All this whilst the action is unfolding on the page. There is the fear and claustrophobia you would expect from being trapped in a sub, but amplified by the concept that what surrounds you is unworldly.
The central idea of Shrouded is a great one. A smaller nation punching above its weight in a war because it harbours a hidden technology. Shrouding is the name of the tech, but layered cleverly into the title of the book is another element that shines – who do you trust? The Dhavnak are aware that there is some sort of advantage to be found so they have infiltrated their enemy with spies. Blackwood as a main character finds herself surrounded with people she may not be able to trust.
With the opening chapters painting a story of an epic war, it is a little jarring when things contract to essentially the interaction of four characters. Blackwood, her brother, a sailor called Holland and a Dhavnak national. These four characters all have differing relations to one another and how they interact could change the course of the war.
If you are a fan of relationships in fiction you will enjoy the layered approach that Hogan takes. There are a lot of split loyalties on offer as well as internal monologues as the characters come to terms with their situation. I am more of a reader who likes action and is not always worried about motivation, so some parts in the middle were a little slow for me, but I could see that a more emotionally in tune reader will gain more. No matter who you are though, you will probably be irritated by the character of the brother.
Shrouded feels like the start of a series that has a lot more to offer. There are hints of a Lovecraftian other place full of betentacled beings. The reader is also introduced to a complex alien religion that may have links to these creatures. Reese has created a book that has opened the door, but does not yet step through. Characterisation is favoured over action and world development. Depending on what type of reader you consider yourself, this will impact how much you enjoy this book.
Written on 19th July 2019 by Sam Tyler .