The Black Coast

By Mike Brooks

The Black Coast, a novel by Mike Brooks
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In Science Fiction and Fantasy, I have visited a multitude of different worlds. In some cases, it feels like all the people on the planet have similar sensibilities, but how is this possible? Even within our own country you get people from the North who are different from the South, never mind the rest of Europe or even another continent. Part of good world building is giving it a sense of eons hidden in the past, of pages of history unread. In The Black Coast by Mike Brooks, we travel to a land divided by centuries of conflict, but can the people put aside their differences when a larger evil threatens them all? 

Daimon is the adopted son of a Sar who owns Black Keep, a piece of land far from the beating heart of Narida. For over a decade they have avoided attack by the warriors coming from the sea. Today things are different as the Black Eagle clan, led by Saana, have not come on one or two ships, but seven, easily enough to overwhelm the Keep. Meanwhile, in the rich city, Tila sister of the God-King, is on a mission to exterminate the only other family with a claim for the throne. Her actions will unknowingly involve the petty thief Jeya. Four vastly different people, with different attitudes, all unaware of the evil that is lurking. 

Low Fantasy like Black Coast is often about conflict and this novel has a lot of that, but it is also about compromise and finding a common goal. When the Black Eagle Clan land on the shores of Black Keep, they are not looking to invade but are refugees. The like of Daimon must overlook decades of raids that have left many friends and family dead at the hands of these ‘savages.’ The honour code that the Sars live under means that they would rather die than break bread with the enemy, it takes Daimon’s courage to break the cycle of violence and try to bring peace. This is all at the cost of his honour. 

This storyline between the two peoples dominates the book and is an interesting read, especially in a fantasy setting as it is unusual. Brooks does not fall into the trap of making the alliance between them easy, there are years of resentment and history to work though. Although Daimon and Saana are willing to bend, others are not. Tension is bubbling along beneath the surface throughout. 

In Black Coast, Brook is intelligently using the genre of fantasy to explore how people with different attitudes can work together. This is true in Black Keep and also in Tila’s parallel storyline. This is Book 1 in The God-King Chronicles and, as of yet, the two narratives are splintered and do not seem to impact one another. We spend less time with Tila and Jeya, and they do not even interact with one another yet. It was enjoyable to see how some of the more cosmopolitan people live, but the Black Keep part of the book was far more compelling for now. 

The theme that does run through all the characters is their different attitudes to gender and how it effects language in various parts of the world. Depending on which of the four characters you are following, the reader sees different language used. One land has five genders that are chosen the individual, one refers to their role in life and those of others, whilst another is simpler but has damning views on how others live. Brook handles the use of subtle language changes well and it give the book a sense of the alien in places, more akin to a Science Fiction novel. What is interesting is that these differences are a minefield that have the potential to start a conflict should someone use the wrong inflection. Perhaps people will begin to search for more of the similarities among one another when they find out about the larger evil that the book hints at towards the end. 

At over 600 pages and only being Book I, Black Coast has plenty of room to breathe and it spends time world building. The entire book feels like it is setting the scene for a larger conflict in subsequent outings. This is not to say that this book does not have a lot going for it. The tale of Daimon and Saana in particular is well written and intelligent. By concentrating on how two diverse cultures marry, Brooks has created a Fantasy book that still has fighting and dragons, but also feels unique by concentrating on communities and compromise.  

Written on 19th February 2021 by .

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