Shadow’s Law, by Utkarsh Sharma

by Urkarsh Sharma

In a moment of insanity, the city fall into chaos. The abomination escapes. Shawn must race against time as the abomination systematically purges the city of evidence. Shawn is beset by enemies on all sides as police, FBI, monstrosities and the karma police duke it out in the city. Each group in the desert city feels that Shawn is the most likely culprit.

Shawn must make alliances and cheat his way to victory against all parties to survive. As his life’s work falls apart, he must decide how much he is willing to gamble to go through with his goal.

A Note for the Author of this book, should you be about to read this review:

Take everything here with the understanding that I am not a professional editor, just a reader of books giving their opinion. Keep writing. Don’t let anything I say stop you from that. Read what I have to say, think on it, take from its criticisms what you can and try to improve your writing for the next book. You wrote a book, that’s so much more than most people manage, so you’re already off to a good start. Keep doing it. If you’re the type who doesn’t handle criticism well (like myself), perhaps have a close friend or family read this and relay the major points to you from someone who knows how to make the barbs not sting. Best of luck and keep writing!

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Shadow’s Law, by Utkarsh Sharma was an intriguing concept that felt like it didn’t quite hit the mark when it came to execution of the writing. The opening scene was good, written in a way that it captured the readers attention. And the first introduction with the Sasha and Ben, the Fortune Hunters, was also a nice interaction, as the reader got to see what happens when two completely independent plans collide head on at the worst possibly moment. It was everything after that that felt like it didn’t quite work as well as it could.

The book very much felt like it was intended to be a sort of getting-the-team-together type of book, where Shawn was meeting Ben and Sasha and they were supposed to be learning to cooperate and trust one another while hunting the big baddy. However, there wasn’t enough time actually spent with the three characters all together for this to occur convincingly. And, likewise, if the book was meant to be more of a hunting-the-baddy-but-he-gets-away-to-be-continued type of action styled book, then there weren’t enough high-action, danger-inducing moments later on in the book to pull this off either. Which left the book wallowing in what felt like an awkward middle ground between the two. Lastly in relation to the plot, the book kind of just ended abruptly. There was no cliff hanger teaser of what was to come, no resolution of current conflicts with other left to be solved in a future book. Shawn and Shasha went off to try and find Ben, Sasha walks into a building with Shawn about to follow her, and The End. It was abrupt and took me by surprise. I was expecting them to go and find Ben, rally their resources and come up with a plan for what they were going to try and do next to hunt the big baddy (which could have lead nicely into a book 2 later on), but instead, the story just stopped. I found it disorienting and rather unsatisfying for the end of a book.

The main characters as individuals were decently depicted. We were given plenty of background history on them, sometimes a bit too much, but I’ll get to that in a moment. They were believable in their actions, showed internal conflict about what they were doing, and were able to work through their thoughts to come to decisions, even if it wasn’t necessary a decision they were happy with. The side characters were a bit of a different matter. There were a lot of cases of side characters acting in very awkward, unnatural ways just for the sake providing information to the reader. Sometimes that information was completely unnecessary to the plot, which made the awkwardness all the more notable. And that leads into my final comments on some of the oddities of the writing style, but first, I want to give you a brief example of the most egregious case I saw of this type of situation occurring, as it’ll make my explanation of what I mean by unnecessary details easier to understand.

The example: Shawn was hiding out eaves-dropping on two henchmen that were walking down a street to their hideout. Just before they enter the hideout, they stop and have a long and detailed conversation about just how many comrades they have, and where they’re posted that evening. Then they suddenly come to their senses, scold each other for talking about such details out where anyone might hear them, and go into the hideout. This was awkward and unnecessary for a lot of reasons.

So the writing style… This is probably where I took the most issue with this story, as there were a lot of seemingly small things that all combined together to make the whole story not as good as it could have been. I’ll start with the unnecessary details things first. From the example I just gave, the only real information the reader (and Shawn) got from that was how many enemies to look out for, and where they might be located. In certain situations, this might be useful information, but in Shawn’s case, it wasn’t really. All it did was tell him there were still enemies about and that he needed to be alert for (even though he wasn’t near where the other enemies were said to be and as far as I could tell, didn’t particularly have plans to head that direction either). Considering he had generally been in hostile territory the whole day and night at this point, I think it was  a moot point that he should have been on alert for enemies, and continuing to be so. The same effect probably could have been achieved with a off-handed comment from the henchmen as the went inside about their comrades not being off patrol until later in the evening  ( and so that’s why they couldn’t go drinking, or play games, or something like that).

This type of excessive, unnecessary detail was a prevalent problem throughout the entire book, with plans or intentions often being way over logic’d or over explained. When writing a book, it’s vitally important that an author learn to trust their readers to be able to make connections and reason about the logic behind actions themselves. This can be helped along by providing backstory for the characters, so readers can understand there motives and work through why they would do something, but not every decision a character makes has to be explicitly explained. Give the backstory and motives for a character, and let the reader connect the logical dots themselves. Holding their hand through the process can feel very annoying and tedious to a reader. I know it did to me.

Next, the backstory. While I was really happy to be given a lot of nice information about the backstories of the characters, their histories, their motives, what led them to where they are now, there were several instances where this information was provided in duplicate, where once would have been more than sufficient. Most obvious example was that’s Shawn entire history was told by him to Ben and Sasha, and then was also conveyed when he had a dream about it that night. One of these options would have been sufficient. I probably would have leaned towards keeping the retelling by Shawn to Ben and Sasha as it fit in rather naturally with meeting them and trying to rationalize his actions to them to get them to trust him. The dream just felt a bit out of place relevant to the rest of the story. Side note: when using dreams in books, things don’t have to make logical sense. Example: a person can be allowed to understand a language they normally wouldn’t without any reason why. The foreign language doesn’t need to be subtitled in the dream for them to understand it, which is how this book chose to depict it. Dreams are illogical, let them be so in the story. It makes them feel more dream-like.

A final note on writing style and details, make sure any facts based in reality are accurate. I’m a scientist, so this in particular stands out to me like a sore thumb. The example here was that Shawn took amphetamines and charcoal at the same time (the charcoal was supposedly to counteract the side effects of the amphetamines). Charcoal absorbs pretty much everything. It won’t just selectively negate the negative side effects of a medicine, it negates the entire effect, which is why it’s used to treat overdoses when pumping a person’s stomach, or to nullify accidental poisonings when someone ingests a toxin. So taking amphetamines and charcoal at the same time was pretty much pointless. What made it worse was that the reason he took the amphetamines was another one of those not quite necessary details that I felt could have been achieved a better way.

Overall, the book had a good premise and an interesting idea. I think it would have benefitted greatly from several more rounds with beta readers providing feedback, and a strong editor’s hand to help guide what information and details were and weren’t necessary to the plot. I wish the author the best with their future work. Keep at it!

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