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Reviewed by Carlton Rolle
Frank Dorrian was born in 1987 in Liverpool – his hometown, a post-industrial cityscape, served as poignant inspiration for his creative efforts. He would commence writing in earnest during his teenage years, composing stories to sate desires of both expression and introspection.
Today, Frank is a qualified mental health nurse. He works in the field with people suffering severe psychiatric and psychological disorders, and additionally offers private mind coaching sessions for those needing a refreshing take on life’s trials. When not writing, Frank spends his spare time reading, playing computer games, and attending a martial arts gym. He has previously competed as a fighter domestically in the UK and abroad in Thailand.
The Shadow of the High King is Dorrian’s first book. It follows events within the kingdom of Caermark. Ruled by King Aenwald for the last 20 years, Caermark is held together with an iron fist and weaponry to back it up. In the dark of the night, a town was destroyed and put to flame. This set into motion events to lead to Caermark’s old and young coming into the fight one way or another.
The story follows multiple characters to give readers an overview of events. Several characters are prominent throughout the novel. King Aenwald, of course, is loved and hated by many. Many respect and follow him through the fear he has placed. Arnulf is a mercenary and leader of the Black Shield. This is a group of sellswords that fight on behalf of others for money. Harlin is a strong warrior and mercenary in the Black Shield. Taken from his clan’s homeland and made into a fighting slave, Harlin holds onto anger and justice to live. Ceatha is a clansman with Harlin. Confused and ravaged like her clan, Ceatha guides Harlin towards dreams of power.
The Shadow of the High King is in the same genre and style as Game of Thrones. I was repulsed by some characters and cheering on whole families. At other times, I felt I was in a large arena filled with blood, screaming along with the rest of them. I began to connect with characters like Harlin and Ceatha on their travel. I pained for them and their back story. Watching your people be killed or shackled into slavery takes an incredible weight. Both of them dealt with it, but in different manners. I found myself hoping for the same brand of bloody justice many characters were searching for.
My favorite thing about this story is not the story itself but an aspect of it. I love the idea of ancient knowledge or people resurfacing. This is influenced within the story by a couple characters directly. I think it adds a set of variables when introduced to a situation. It could bring more power or an untimely demise. For readers, it adds an element of surprise. I think enough was in this book without confusing readers too much. In the second book, should there be one, I would imagine that more this aspect will occur.
It feels like Dorrian took his time thinking about the characters and the plot. Betrayal and justice riddle the land of Caermark along with bodies. Characters are forced to fight or die. The Shadow of the High King is a great book if you’re looking for a legendary story to read! It’s sure to leave a deep impression on you, as if sliced by a sword. As one king falls, another rises. I’m interested to see what other surprises and acts will be apart of the next book!