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Spellgiver #1

City of Shards

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In the Wormpile district, gangs rule the streets, unwashed urchins assail each other with minor magic, and the people boil under the sway of a monstrous god. Deep within those decaying alleyways, the boy Larin shouts his tourette-like outbursts at random, explosions that have turned him into a pariah throughout the neighborhood. And while he’s protected from the gangs by his drug-addicted uncle Akul—a warrior with a mysterious past and the emotional range of granite—none of that will restore his social life.

But soon, Larin finds he has bigger problems. For the source of his outbursts is the malevolent being Haraf, Lord of Demons, enemy to the Six-Legged Gods. Now that priests of the Six-Legged Gods have begun creeping through the Wormpile, masking their terrifying agenda with calls for social justice, it’s only a matter of time before things spiral out of control. As Larin and his uncle find themselves surrounded by enemies, their only hope is to join forces with a perpetually drunk warrior-priestess and a high-born wizardress, who must hold her nose to work with the street-rabble she despises. And Larin will either follow his master Haraf, or watch his city plunge into a far more insidious darkness—one so great, it will turn mankind’s soul to ash.

336 pages, Kindle Edition

First published January 26, 2018

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About the author

Steve Rodgers

14 books7 followers
Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the Goodreads database with this name.

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Profile Image for Jen - The Tolkien Gal.
458 reviews4,464 followers
August 1, 2018
Drop whatever fantasy you’re reading and pick up this book right now. And I know this is a long review, but hear me out. This is one of the best epic fantasy series in existence.

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I know, I know. Crazy statement to make. But sit back, relax and get some popcorn and read what I have to say about this amazing book, because Steve Rodgers needs all the support for his book that he can get. This book is breathtakingly awesome.

The Plot
“Would we have still succumbed to the Darkness Emja’s cloisters adhered to their original sacred mission? No one knows. But into the void of apathy, the rush of hatred easily finds purchase.”

This book doesn’t have the scope of Sanderson or the shock factor of George Martin, but it has one of the most solid high fantasy executions I’ve read in a long while, simply because it achieves the exact measure of intrigue, character development and world-building that it sets out to have.

The story begins with Larin, an orphaned boy who lives with his khald-addicted uncle, Akul, in the Wormpile district. Larin has strange Tourette-like outbursts, but soon Trana (fantastic female character, by the way) explains to them that the outbursts belong to the Tagalanth god Haraf, Larin is devastated and made an outcast. And boy do things just get down and dirty from there on.

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A protagonist whose mouth spills with the scripture and spells of a demon, instead of a protagonist who is the prophet of a “good” god, is so much more compelling. Larin is a ‘chosen one’, but not in the way you'd think. Because of the stigmatization he experiences, Larin does not ride on “chosen one fame”, but must prove himself through his kindness and willingness not to back down. Larin is not a chosen one – he is a proven one.

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“Larin, we both know your outbursts have marked you for something. I don’t know why Haraf has chosen you, but the night I have much greater certainty that the Old Gods are indeed your enemies. As they are mine.”

Now let’s talk about the characters. Larin is a troubled youth with a string of bravery to accompany his outbursts
"Scalding liquid flowed through his veins, throbbing heat threatened to burst his forehead. Dark spirits moved inside him, lifting his arms and stiffening his spine. He arched his back, pumped a fist over his head, stomped his foot on the cobblestones, and shouted his phrase to the sky, while everyone stunned in silence. Larin carries on despite being backed into a corner.

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I love the way in which the indigens describe humans. It sheds a new light on humanity:
“He sensed humour was a good thing and, with a sudden insight, realized it was a key to human bonding. He sheathed his vision pods, feeling he’d discovered an important truth.

Religion: Losing it
I love how religion is portrayed in this book. Although the Morphat priests are ultimately violent and manipulative, Emja priests are far from perfect and often sit with a myriad of drinking problems accompanied by shards of apathy.

The characters
Akul is a stubborn, hot-headed man who has fallen from prior grace, gains and glories:

“The point is that action could’ve cost you your arm.” Akul’s forehead became a shriveled prune, the way it did at any display of emotion. You did the right thing, and I’m uh, Proud of you.”

Trana is a female priestess who holds her liquor like no other. Her guffaw shook their small apartment and Akul wrapped his head in khald misery.” OR “She held a huge carved mug which was now empty, but which could hold more ale than some drank in an evening."

Onie: “Onie’s grateful smile lit her entire face and just then he’d have paid a gold crown if he’d had one.” Onie carves indigen and non-indigen creatures (humans) together in a type of chimera. It shows how the races are miscommunicating and could live in possible harmony.

Caught in a good romance

I love the romance between Larin and Onie. Onie is not love sick , but loves him deeply – and so does he. “Larin remembered the first time they’d walked to the storeroom together, searching for privacy as Ruldir grinned slyly and Akul pointedly ignored them.”

The Queen“Our queen is a true monarch, smarter than all of us, willing to lead. Will we be governed by an imbecile while the most capable among us is denied?”

Candro "n the fiver years they’d been best friends, he’d been lured into countless acts of stupidity by Candro’s silver tongue; by now he’d learned to accept the inevitable.”

Korrin: “Korrin’s fighting style was all about momentum. He charged into group of pale-faced Morphasti, decapitating two men with a single blow as he sent his fist into the face of another.”

The hard truths of life:

“When our grandchildren ask, “why did so many embrace the darkness?” the answer we must give is that they did not. They embraced a veil of lies, a poisonous golden scarf sewn with good deeds.” – Poet, Eshan Karlia.

“Fate and free will are no enemies. They are two halves of the same circle.”

“All it takes for men to perform evil is to convince themselves others are worthy of their hate.”

“The desolation of Akul’s long battle with the drug hit Larin then, the rage of a once-incomparable warrior brought low by a thimbleful of red power.” (Drug abused succinctly summarized)
“The indigen monsters that claw through our childhood fables are nothing compared to the monstrosity of men in pursuit of power.”

Thank your for this journey, Mr Rodgers. Looking forward to the rest of the trilogy.

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So come friends. read with me. Because:
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Edit: I forgot to add that I reviewed this book for NetGalley. (and spelling)
Profile Image for Montzalee Wittmann.
4,605 reviews2,309 followers
March 30, 2018
City of Shards (Spellgiver Book 1) by Steve Rodgers is a book I requested from NetGalley and the review is voluntary. This is such an epic saga about an orphan boy, his life, society and their strange religions, and who and what the purpose of this kid's life is to be. Characters are so incredibly interesting, the fantasy hooked me right away, and the world building is crazy good!
Profile Image for Mitticus.
1,011 reviews213 followers
June 4, 2018
+Digital arc gently provided by Netgalley and publishers in exchange for an honest review+

“Fate and free will are no enemies. They are two halves of the same circle.”
“And if I choose to resist fate?”
“You will choose, of your own free will, to follow your fate. Man’s free will becomes his destiny.”

What happen when you are the chosen one , the one intended to bring the end of the world?

Larin is an orphan who lives with his uncle, an old warrior gone down, in a city populated by gangs of thieves and thugs, and since he was little he has been singled out and ridiculed for his involuntary outbursts during which he shouts a phrase incomprehensible to the great majority For him this is a curse, but for those who understand it is an advocation or rather a promise to the Lord of demons -Haraf- who was expelled from those lands and who longs to return using his designated servant: Larin.

This is a solid epic fantasy, similar to others in the genre. I had some problems in getting into the subject between so much god and name change, but my concentration has not been the best these days.

The power for magic comes from the Moon and it is called Spellgiver by the locals.

Interesting and diferent is the lack of elves, dwarves, orcs and alike from anothers tolkien-ish epic fantasy books, so we have here, instead, another native species: one with six appendices , claws and pods, that were pushed aside by the humans wizards (shocking, I know). The Lidathi, or Created Ones explained by Kemharak:

“So the Day of Rising celebrates—”
“The day the gods brought us into their lairs and gave us speech. Today, the seconds and thirds become like the gods, working the creator’s magic before releasing the Jehibulleth. Just as we were once released to work the metals from the earth and bring them to the gods’ cities.
“The forest was different then, full of singing vines, Henila mounds, and many other plants and creatures which exist no more. You humans have changed everything.” Kemharak didn’t know why he was telling the human this; he felt some unexplainable need for it to understand their past.
Theralle moved its head up and down. “It is what I always thought. The gods created your people for work, not for pain. It means there are some gods who care more about what you can produce than what misery you can cause.”
“Or it means the original gods have become insane over time,” Kemharak said. He was very glad Manek could not understand.

In the other hand, Larin is an irritating protagonist, he only complains and complains throughout the story. Poor me, I do not have magic. Poor me, I can not leave my protected sector. Poor me, I can not have friends. Poor me, my uncle does not understand me. Ug. It get worst with teen years, and the rising anger. So much anger.

The story tells us about a war between deities, where humans and Lidathi are pawns. These gods are in another dimension and are brought to this by the prayers-devotions-spells of their magical priests. It seems that every certain amount of years there is a new attack with strong consequences.

The royal court is corrupted as usual. heh. The king entangled by pacts, and ... drugs. We have also an intelligent queen - go Relena! And an evil colorblind wizard, Emdarian, whom only lacks the moustache .

The multifaced suspicious wizard is also an interesting character.

The basic pantheon:
Emja the drunken god, with temples / beer taverns. I still think of a kind of devotees like the Took friar here.
Morphat the sadistic god, who enjoys prolonging the pain of his human sacrifices.
Haraf the Demon Lord.

Yeah, it got my attention more at the ending, so I hope to read the next book.
Profile Image for Adam.
391 reviews170 followers
August 1, 2018
Note: This book is part of the SPFBO 4 competition, and its score has been graded on a different set of rules than the usual. This score might change over time as our team discusses which selections will move on to future rounds.

Steve Rodgers’ City of Shards, book one in the “Spellgiver” series, is a rewarding read. On the surface, the book is a coming-of-age tale that centers on a chosen slum-dwelling orphan trying to survive in a harsh city controlled by a creeping religious sect and a gang of petty thugs. Dig a bit deeper, and you’ll discover a rich land full of detailed history, a struggle between gods new and old, an exiled eldritch race trying to reclaim their homeland, and a vast empire of secrets, betrayals, and mysteries that date back to the Creation of the world itself.

Fans of worldbuilding will rejoice upon opening the book. Readers are immediately greeted with a four-page Chronos, detailing the history of this world dating back nearly 28,000 years. Dozens of important dates and events are listed, and as the story progressed, I realized that this entire history was important in unraveling some of the mysteries and motivations of its various rulers and races. The book then treats us to two maps: one of the City of Aldive (aka the City of Shards, where most of the book takes place), and another map of the Empire of Tanbar at large. I found myself referencing these maps quite a bit; while Rodgers displays ample skill describing the characters’ settings and environments, I found these maps extremely helpful in connecting some of the various locales that are referenced. As stated above, the further you allow yourself to be immersed in this world, the more you will get out of it.

As the first chapter opens, we are graced with lyrics from a bard’s song that is pertinent to the chapter’s events. Every chapter in the book is preceded by some quote, lyric, or passage that greatly enhances the worldbuilding experience. Thus far, before the narrative has a chance to start, the reader has been taught lessons in history, geography, and culture. This careful attention to detail does not relent for the entirety of the story. It was a lot to absorb at first, but I admire Rodgers’ decision to spend the first few chapters developing the setting without pushing the plot forward too quickly. Rodgers writes with a sharp wit, crafting both humorous and scathing analogies while introducing several mysteries that piqued my interest early on. At times, Rodgers introduces the reader to in-depth histories before immediately subverting them, so it’s important to absorb this early information to gain a true understanding of world at large.

I must emphasize again that this is a very detailed world, and it is plain to see how much time the author spent developing its various eccentricities. It is a world where the location of the moon (the titular Spellgiver) determines the strength of spells that mages can access. While the moon is at its Apex stage, the spell strength is strongest, but its position also can prevent access to certain areas of the continent. There are multiple sets of gods, including an ancient and immortal race known as the Carvers that brought magic to the world. There is an evil Eldegod named Morphat that thrives on pain and human sacrifice that is somehow gaining in popularity across the human cities and beyond. Another god, Haraf of the of Demons, has been banished to a prison dimension and driven insane by its solitude. He seeks vengeance against the humans that imprisoned him. There’s a Lovecraftian race of indigenous, six-armed lizard-like beings that have been driven by war to live in a northern frozen tundra, led by a commander of uncommon intelligence who vies to reclaim their southern homeland back from the humans who drove them away. (Fans of Phil Tucker’s Chronicles of the Black Gate series might draw a few parallels between Kemharak and Tharok.) And at the center of it all is our main character Larin, a troubled youth battling loneliness and depression, who occasionally explodes with a Tourette’s-like outburst that may end up being the key to humanity’s salvation… or downfall.

At its heart, this is a coming of age story that centers on Larin trying to survive his affliction in a thug-controlled ghetto of the City of Shards. There are some familiar beats in the story: Larin is a ‘chosen one’ hero who comes from nothing to play a key role in the fate of the world. Yet there are plenty of interesting twists that separate this story from others of its kind. What if the only two choices Larin has is to decide between humanity’s enslavement to cult of horror and repression, or to face an insane and powerful being who is hell-bent vengeance and destruction?

There are several other notable aspects to the book that I admired. Rodgers is skilled at crafting mysteries and revealing them at a generous pace, which felt gratifying and prevented the book from getting too dark. I also enjoyed how Rodgers not only built this diverse world, but attempts to explain its origins, histories, birthing of magic, creation of races, and vast environmental changes over the course of millennia – and it’s all tied into the central plot of the saga. Even though there is substantial information to absorb and review, none of it feels extraneous, and it all has its place in furthering the story and its repercussions across the world. It’s a lot to cover, but somehow it all works very well!

Side note: chapter 12 is one of the most interesting and unique chapters I’ve read this year. Not just because of the blood-clowns, but they certainly helped the cause. Yes, there are blood-clowns. If I had been undecided at whether I was enjoying this story or not, there was no longer any question after I finished this chapter.

Although City of Shards is the first SPFBO 4 book I decided to review, I have a strong sense that it will be in discussion for our team’s finalist entry. Although I have many more books I’ve committed to read and review before the end of this year, I decided to put all of those aside and immediately purchase and read the next book in the series. That is probably the best endorsement I can give City of Shards: it made throw away my reading schedule because I wanted to find out what happens next. And that is a rare feat indeed. Regardless of its fate in the contest, this is a book that should be shared and discussed, and I’m eager to continue exploring Rodgers’ catalog further.

Scores: 7.5/10

Profile Image for Lukasz.
1,384 reviews222 followers
August 13, 2018
Actual rating: 4.25/5

Kinech Aklad Vahrusen! *

Larin has a problem. Call it a magical Tourette syndrome - he reacts to stress with uncontrollable, three-word outbursts. Being a laughingstock is no fun, but things get worse. It turns out the words he repeats every time can unleash Haraf, Lord of Demons, who’s been imprisoned by Six-Legged Gods. Larin will have to play, unwillingly, an important role in this conflict.

Raised in a four-block area of a slum (known as a Wormpile) by his junkie, warrior-priest uncle, Akul, Larin lacks skills to face this kind of adversity. He's a bookworm, not a hero. Alas, daydreaming and study will have to wait. Harnessing his magical powers and choosing the right path is more important.

Happily, he has allies. Who wouldn't feel confident facing the evil gods in the company of a drug-addicted uncle, an alcoholic priestess and a haughty wizardress? 

Rodgers plays with traditional fantasy tropes and refreshes them. Sure, Larin's journey is full of well-known elements (monsters, magical powers ready to harness, treason), but it's also unpredictable, and nuanced. His possibilities vary between bad and worse - each choice he can make carries dark consequences. There's no way around it.

Rodgers' heroes are flawed but believable. Making humans relatable is easy though. Making strange, ungodly creatures, like Lidathi, understandable is a much bigger achievement. And it's done remarkably well. We learn about the Created ones through Kemharak's (a Lidathi "general") POV. His efforts to understand humans and their emotions made me smile a few times. Here's what a Lidathi thinks about humans:

Both humans and the Created ones had heads, necks, and faces, and both faces held sensor pods on the top and feeding orifices on the bottom. Yet the human sensor pods were three colors and used only for vision, with separate pods for hearing on the sides and a strange protuberance in the middle for sensing things Kemharak could only guess at. Whereas, Kemharak's four bulbous pods were evenly spaced around his head, each functioning independently for vision or hearing. In addition, the human's vision pods never revealed its intent through color, as did his people's. It was as if the human creator had been drunk on the fermented fruits of the forest or was new to the act of creation. In every physical way, his people were better designed.

As most relationships in the book, the relationship between Kemharak and his human prisoner - Theralle is done very well. It's probably the most intriguing bond in the book. Also, the one that leads to a strong cliffhanger.

The Empire of Treban feels real; there's some serious effort behind the realm's comprehensive history, politics and varied races. At times things get dense, but I never felt assaulted with info-dumping. Magic system is interesting and unique - to succeed in magic you need a natural talent, the correct pronunciation of a spell and the right phase of the huge moon, Spellgiver. 

The author’s writing style is accessible, crisp, and engaging. It propels the book through a wealth of plot twists. While there's no purplish prose here, it tends to be strongly descriptive in places. 

As you've already guessed, I enjoyed this book a lot. The sequel is on my kindle. I'll read it shortly. I encourage you to give this one a try.

* The Lord escapes his prison.
Profile Image for Kal ★ Reader Voracious.
560 reviews192 followers
Shelved as 'dnf'
April 14, 2018
ARC provided by the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

City of Shards is a fantasy book that I wanted to love: a new world, misunderstood magic, and mysterious pasts. I am in the minority, but I could not get into this book. I spent about 3 weeks struggling with the book to get to 25% but just did not ever become engaged. I cannot pinpoint a reason for this: the writing is good and the premise is interesting, but I never connected with the story.

Larin is an orphan that lives with his drug-addicted uncle with a mysterious past that rules a four-block area of the Wormpile; outside of this "safe-zone" gangs rule the streets. Larin has a condition or curse where he yells out these mysterious words, and to protect him his uncle tries to hide him from everyone else. Much of the 25% that I read, Larin tries to understand and overcome this curse and have some semblance of a normal life.

The world he lives in has a complex political structure and back history of religion, the latter of which was particularly interesting to me (dragons! dragon worship?!). The world is exposed to the reader slowly, and is really meant to be a character-driven tale. Much of the first quarter of the book is highlighting Larin's life growing up in relation to this affliction, and the overall worldbuilding is developed slowly around that.

This is a slow-paced book, but that in and of itself isn't the reason for my apathy. I did wind up putting the book down to read something else, and after almost two weeks I just don't want to pick it up. Life is too short for me to read something that I am not engaged in, but just because this book wasn't for me doesn't mean that it won't be for you if you enjoy high fantasy narratives with complex characters and backstory.

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Profile Image for Apsalar.
25 reviews17 followers
June 11, 2018
I was given an ARC by Netgalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

We are introduced to Larin a young boy living in the worst part of town with his uncle who has a severe drug addiction but yet manages to be one the most awesome fighters the world has ever seen. Larin suffers violent outburst in which he yells the same three words and this seems to be a great source of entertainment for the neighborhood's thugs and bullies.  Larin has few friends and spends most his time reading in the temple's library. Though his uncle Akul tries to protect him from the local thug Oarl and his gang Larin still ends up being the victim of many beatings. As the story progresses we get to meet more characters such as Larin's friend Candro, his love interest Onie and an almost always drunk warrior priestess Trana.

We also get to meet the emperor of Tanbar, Maldovin and his council of dukes. Maldovin seems to be a royal pain in the ass but ends being a quite likeable character.

As the story develops we also get to meet the leader of the oncoming invasion Kemharak and his commanders who aren't human at all or even likeable when we first meet them.

I love the fact that all characters are well written.

I can't say much more without giving away spoilers.

The world Larin lives in is very interesting with all kinds of religions, creatures and magic. The author is an excellent worldbuilder so that's a huge plus for me. The creatures are also quite interesting some seem to be more like insects and others more like lizzards. 

There are some typical fantasy tropes when it comes to the grumpy uncle,orphan boy destined to save the world with a gang of friends but it didn't bother me at all. The rich history and creatures made this book a very enjoyable read. And I was quite happy to see the second book is already out.
Profile Image for Devann.
2,443 reviews139 followers
June 10, 2018
I received an ARC copy of this book from NetGalley

I saw this book on NetGalley and decided at first to skip it because I'm just so picky about high fantasy. Skip to a few weeks later and it was recommended to me by a friend who was absolutely raving about it! It's amazing! Six stars! So I figured I might as well give it a shot. Apparently I'm very much in the minority here, but I just could not get into it.

There's nothing technically *wrong* with this book and I wish I could give it 3 stars because it's honestly not a 'bad' book, but my eyes kept un-focusing as I tried to get through it and as a result I ended up skimming a lot of it. The writing is good from a technical standpoint so don't worry about that, but I was just really bored by the world and the characters.

Honestly I think it kind of went downhill right from the start because it opens with a timeline spanning several pages and several thousand years so I was immediately like 'oh god what did I get myself into'. After promptly skipping that [I know, but honestly who can retain information from a timeline] the first third of the book is dedicated to following Larin as he grows from a child into a teenager. I know most people won't mind this but I hate books that have huge time skips like that. Also I never really found Larin interesting at all, so it was hard for me to be drawn into the book since it was so heavily character driven at first.

After that the plot picks up with whole high fantasy meets Cthulhu thing, which sounds really cool but I just could not get into it all. I'm sure this will be a great series for a lot of people, but I need some truly outstanding characters and world-building to get immersed in high fantasy and this book just wasn't doing it for me.
Profile Image for Viking Jam.
1,110 reviews16 followers
March 5, 2018

Publishing Date: March 2018

Publisher: JKS


Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 4.8/5

Publisher’s Description: The Wormpile district is the official canker on the capital’s bottom, a place where the people boil under the sway of a monstrous god. There, 16-year old Larin suffers from a magical outbursts, shouting nonsense words into decaying alleyways. Protected from the gangs by his drug-addicted warrior uncle Akul, Larin’s only friends are an outcast thief and an alcoholic priestess looking for excuses not to arrest him.

Review: Wanna get lost for awhile in a really well written novel with great characters and spectacular world building? Look no further than the “City of Shards”, book one in the Spellgiver series.

This story is told from Larin’s point of view, and the author does a great job rendering the world through this perspective. The supporting characters really deliver and the magic has limitations that ground the story line. I am really looking forward to “In the Claws of the Indigen”. GET THIS!
Profile Image for Sydney.
74 reviews10 followers
March 30, 2018
This is an intricate dark fantasy that's really hard to put down. The book beautifully develops the world while blending in action to keep the plot moving. It's a very elegantly written fantasy, and the end will leave you begging for the next book!
Profile Image for Ashleigh Gauch.
Author 6 books7 followers
April 4, 2018
City of Shards is the debut novel in Steve Rodgers’ Spellgiver series, an epic fantasy with strong sword and sorcery overtones. I’d initially tried to get the review out for release day on the 30th, as the author was kind enough to provide me a review copy, but unexpected guests delayed my ability to finish it.

And boy was I upset about the delay!

The book opens with the story of Larin, a young orphan boy taken in by his uncle Akul, who resides in the temple of Emja, the supreme human god. When he’s around 10, he starts exhibiting strange behavior involving thrusting his fist in the air and shouting a phrase in an arcane language at the sky. Alarmed by this, his uncle secludes him in the store room of Emja’s temple, lest the priests ever discover his strange fits.

Fast forward to Larin at sixteen, and things get a bit worse for him when he manages to anger Oarl, a bully/gang leader who all but rules the Wormpile, the slum where Emja’s temple resides. He makes friends with a young thief who can stand by his side because he can “outrun everyone else in the Wormpile,” so Oarl’s men can’t touch him. When the bully gang finds out about Larin’s fits, they take to tormenting him specifically for the purpose of forcing them out of him, much to his chagrin.

Larin’s life shapes up for the better when his father contacts a sorceress. She creates a charm for him that stops the fits, and with his newfound freedom, Larin sets about taking revenge on those who hurt him. The campaign is short lived when the six-legged god of chaos and pain Morphat begins tricking the Wormpile residents into training at his temple of pain and misery, and Larin discovers his true purpose: bringing the mad demon king Haraf back into the world.

I can’t go too much deeper without spoilers, but I loved this book for all the reasons I wanted to love Breakers of the Dawn. Later on in the book we get some scenes from the point of view of an indigen (six legged monsters banished in a prior war to the icy part of the continent) general, and the creature genuinely felt both inhuman and relatable.

The writing style was gorgeous without being over the top, and despite how many unique concepts I was introduced to over the span of the novel, I never found myself lost. The magical system was well explained and I never found Rodgers breaking any of his own rules, which is a major plus. The idea of a god war between factions isn’t new, but the way this one was presented certainly was, and I found myself hooked into Larin’s (and later minor characters’ whose POV we explore from a quarter of the book onward) struggle right away.

All his characters were well developed, and the villain, once revealed, is bone-chillingly creepy without being overly generic. If I hadn’t been interrupted unexpectedly, I’d probably end up binge reading the whole thing in a night or two.

The book’s formatting was well done, though I did find a bit of odd line spacing between the chapter images and chapter headers. It didn’t bother me any, and for all I know it was an early copy glitch.

5/5, can’t wait for In the Claws of the Indigen.
Profile Image for Angela Boord.
Author 8 books90 followers
October 4, 2018
City of Shards reminded me a little of 80's/90's fantasy. There's a lot of world-building in this novel, so if you're a fan of fantasy that includes big nasty cities, odd creatures, alien cultures, vengeful gods, evil villians, big magic, and wizard battles, you'll probably like this book.

I picked it up because I was interested in the main character, Larin. In the blurb for the book, he's described as having a kind of "magical Tourette's Syndrome" that causes him to shout a particular phrase for no apparent reason. Because I have a child with Tourette Syndrome, I was a little afraid of how this was actually going to be portrayed. In the media, Tourette Syndrome often (usually) means a character who curses uncontrollably and is played for laughs. In reality, Tourette Syndrome is a tic disorder involving involuntary physical movements and/or verbal noises, which may or may not be words. Sniffing and throat-clearing are common tics, for instance. The shouting-curse-words tic does exist, but it's not particularly common.

I was relieved to find that Larin's problem seems to be much more realistically and sympathetically handled. He shouts three words -- which do turn out to have an important meaning -- and makes several involuntary gestures with each outburst. At first his problem is embarrassing and he's bullied for it, but as the story progresses and Larin discovers what his words actually mean, his outbursts become dangerous. Not surprisingly, Larin battles loneliness and depression, but he makes a few friends and he's got some spunk, so this is not a "woe is me" tale. I liked Larin, and I'll be interested in seeing how his character develops in the sequels, particularly as it seems like his three words are going to come with a hefty price attached.

Bottom line: This is the first book in a complicated and detailed world which does a lot of the heavy lifting of setting up that world. But the characterization and story have enough oomph to make it something bigger than a "set-up book". It's definitely worth reading, especially if you like your fantasy worlds very different from our own.

Profile Image for newpath.
29 reviews1 follower
August 18, 2018
tl;dr: This book would make a really great 1/3 of an epic fantasy book, but not of an epic fantasy trilogy.

At first I was really impressed at the technical quality of the writing and how deep and compelling the worldbuilding appeared to be. I was sucked almost immediately into the story and into the life of Larin, a street urchin living in a ghetto, but with an obvious sense of destiny about him. I was at the edge of my seat, expecting shit to go down at any moment. But the more of the story I read and the closer I came to the end of the novel, the more confused I got. Nothing seemed to be happening to the protagonist... there was no sense of urgency, nothing that was driving the plot forward was actually connected to the main story thread. Time after time a chapter started by declaring a time skip had happened, "months passed" and "weeks passed" and I just wondered "when is the story going to start?".

It was only when I reached the end of the novel that I realized what was going on, why the pacing felt so off and the creeping percentage marker on my ereader was inspiring confusion rather than the customary dread(in the case of a good book) or relief (in the case of a bad one): The fucking author ended the novel at around 1/3 mark in a typical epic fantasy novel! You know that part in the story where the protagonist stops demurring and finally "answers the call" and leaves his home in pursuit of adventure? That's literally where City of Shards ends. The first book in the trilogy is actually the first third of EVERY SINGLE FUCKING EPIC FANTASY BOOK EVER.

What a joke.

Most of all, though: what a damn shame. This story had everything to be a real contender.

PS. No wonder the sequel was published only a month after this book.
Profile Image for Books Forward.
186 reviews41 followers
April 2, 2018
Welcome to Spellgiver, the divided world where power rises from the moon’s phases and the language of magic is assembled from the ruins of a long-dead race.

Reminiscent of the work of Brent Weeks, Steve Rodger’s debut novel creates a fascinating world where the power structures of Seridor, Tanbar, and the Northlands live in fear and ignorance of each other. Like all the best fantasy novels, “City of Shards” challenges worldviews by presenting them in a new universe and touching on themes of social justice and redemption in a deeply political, trustless world.
Profile Image for Marissa DeCuir.
233 reviews11 followers
April 2, 2018
I just couldn't put down this dark epic fantasy! Perfect for anyone who enjoys the classic elements of high fantasy but also enjoys the grittier sociopolitical complexity of low fantasy.
41 reviews3 followers
March 30, 2018
A fascinating debut fantasy book. Fans of Lord of the Rings and of Greek mythology will find something to love.
Profile Image for Bob.
95 reviews1 follower
March 1, 2018
A battle looms between the Gods and their human and indigen proxies. At the same time competing currents within both camps threaten their internal unity. Larin, a young man full of undisciplined, unmediated magic may be the only hope for either side. It's all very dramatic stuff, the characterisation and plotting is excellent, and the world-building blends familiar fantasy tropes with aspects recalling elements as disparate as Rice Burroughs' Barsoom and the Aztec Empire.

It's great stuff, and it's very well written. In fact, my only quibble is that the cover illustration is a bit too reminiscent of the pulp era for such a seriously-conceived book. I can't wait for the next in the series.
Profile Image for Julie.
Author 4 books2 followers
March 19, 2018
An enthralling read by turns suspenseful, moving, and thought provoking. I would liken this book to China Mieville meets Gene Wolfe. A richly imagined secondary world fantasy where different sorts who worship different gods are not getting along well at all, a world imbued with magic through the orb that rules the night sky, Spellgiver. It’s a messed up world and these characters have some serious issues, but they could be people I know. Among this menagerie, differently-abled street urchin Larin discovers he has a key role to play in the scheme of things. Def looking forward to more in this series and more from this author in general.
17 reviews1 follower
July 25, 2018
Welcome to the City of Shards. Three tools you need to embark on a journey into this book: An intensely curious mind, well-honed attention to detail, and an actively functioning imagination.
Steve Rodgers’ world takes you into a world of magic, sorcery, wizardry and spell-binding. However, what you experience is much more than that. So if you think you are only going to experience magic within the pages of the book, then you are in for a howler. Much like the popular meme - do not take alcohol if you are going to be operating heavy machinery - do not begin reading this book if you have important commitments coming up or you have deadlines to meet.
Rogers’ ability to tell a story is spellbinding. if you want to know what’s going to happen next, the only option available would be to turn the page. Regardless of who you are or how much self-control you possess; you are going to turn the page. And so you’ll keep turning page after page. Until you realise at the end, that all this while you’ve been at the beckoning of a master storyteller.
Just, simply, an excellent read!
Profile Image for Payal Sinha.
Author 6 books20 followers
May 5, 2018
City of Shards is a spellbinding novel centered around an orphan boy Larin. Larin lives with his uncle Akul inside a temple premises a lonely and cursed life. Since early childhood he had these intense outbursts that left him tired and bewildered. Hence, the only hope according to his uncle is to keep him hidden. To combat the loneliness Larin takes to reading forbidden books from the temple's library. There he comes across words that fuel his anger and his outbursts. Larin further comes to know that he is useless with magic. Now destiny has something important stored for him. The book takes us on a journey of Larin's adventure where everyone close to him has to make important sacrifices.

The book is very interesting and could be easily shared with a teenager or a young adult. The world of fantasy has been intricately created and the characters well developed. I loved the story and look forward to it's sequel.
Profile Image for Perry Morris.
Author 5 books45 followers
June 13, 2018
This is an amazing fantasy epic. I fully endorse it. Steve Rodgers has created a complex and intriguing world with original creatures that are unique and really fire the imagination. I love the way the indigen race have eight pods on the front and back and they can...
408 reviews51 followers
May 2, 2018
Original Review Here

I was delighted to be approved for an ARC for City of Shards: it sounded my type of book and I had seen positive reviews already.

It was exactly my kind of book; fantasy; magic; gods waging war and the main character being the underdog in over his head.

Larin is cursed with shouting a phrase – one he ultimately understands makes him a servant of a Demon. His life is lonely and isolated, ruled by fear – his uncle offers protection, but a crime-lord rules his district and no one will be seen with Larin.

Just as he feels like he can move on, the city falls prey to a cult and a powerful mage. Swept up in the chaos, Larin realises he has a bigger part to play in it.

Larin is a great main character. He is vulnerable and lonely, but also brave – to the point of bordering on stupidity. He stands up for himself, regardless of the consequence, and refuses to endanger those closes to him. When he finds out he is more than he seems, he accepts the burden, knowing his power could save those he loves.

While Larin is the main narrator, there are a number of strong characters. Larin’s uncle is more than he seems, with a hidden past and a proficiency for sword-play beyond anyone else. Kemharak – an enemy creature I can’t even begin to describe – develops a conscience as the book progresses – and he isn’t sure what to do with it! Laniette is powerful and beautiful and has the measure of Larin from the start. The few friends Larin have are loyal to him, no matter what.

In the early parts of the book, I got a little lost as to exactly how the god system works – it wasn’t clear who was supposed to be good and who bad. But it’s not enough to distract from the story and I pieced it together as the plot unfolds.

Apart from the gods, there was something comforting and familiar about this book. I was reading echoes of some of the other fantasy books in it. Never enough that it was similar to one or another, but just in the way the character was isolated from his friends (Robin Hobb) and the way the rules of magic worked (reminded me slightly of Eragon).

The book was original and extremely well-written, don’t think otherwise. But I enjoyed it more because of these familiarities – I could focus my attention on figuring out the gods, because the other fantastical elements were clear to me from the beginning. It’s difficult to explain: for me, it was a positive thing that I felt familiar with a world that I didn’t know.

The tension and pacing worked perfectly for the story. Larin never has it easy, but the level of the threat increases as the plot unfolds and draws the reader deeper and deeper into this world of trouble Larin has landed in.

I’m looking forward to the second book!
Profile Image for Nick Stewart.
20 reviews9 followers
August 25, 2022
To say this is my favorite self-published book would be doing this book a disservice. This is one of my favorite books PERIOD. A truly unique and original high fantasy world. Check out my BookTube video for the full review!: https://youtu.be/jd-DdWDzGec
Profile Image for Mark Barsotti.
Author 10 books3 followers
March 14, 2019
As a ravenous reader since childhood, I've read and enjoyed more epic fantasy than your average Joe (admittedly, that's not saying much), but it's not a genre I particularly seek out. The tropes/archetypes give me pause - an innocent seeker on a journey/quest to personal enlightenment and great power, enough to remake a Kingdom/World; imperiled friends & love interests; villains so loathsome they're be shunned in the Third Reich; and so on.

Rare writers (the molasses-paced Mr. Martin springs to mind) blow said tropes to smithereens. And then they are talented newcomers like Steve Rogers, who deploys familiar elements so skillfully that the critic in your head, nattering on about how you've seen all this before, is put to rout about midway through the book - in this case CITY OF SHARDS - and proves wise enough to just shut the hell up and enjoy the ride.

I won't go into many plot details (because once started, where do you stop?) Larin is a young, (not really) powerless lad, leading a lonely existence in the Wormpile (great term. BTW), a slum district in the coastal city of Aldive. Harassed by bullies (only his warrior uncle Akul keeps him from serious harm), Larin also experiences uncontrollable magical outbursts when under stress, a worrisome trait makes him an outcast and has fueled his lifelong, semi-covert study of the mystic arts. There's a burgeoning love interest (natch), a not-very good King, who's still the empire of Tanbar's best hope, as war clouds billow into ominous thunderheads on all side.

Then the King is incapacitated by the type of evil wizard who skins foes alive and nails them to buildings. The brave and wily Queen must step into the breech, as Larin, aided by various allies, begin to master his in-born abilities. There are sub-plots aplenty, exotic species more at home in SF (I'm a big fan of genre-blending), and a variety of gods - none big on faith, hope, or charity - contenting for the fate of a planet.

So well-known ingredients, yeah, but the stew is intoxicating. Rogers proves masterful at serving up compelling, well-rounded characters (the First Commandment of all fiction), some "oh wow" world-building, and a multi-pronged plot that make the book an irresistible "page-turner," in the best sense of that oft-abused term.

And - need it even be said? - like most modern fantasy, City of Shards is merely the opening salvo in a multi-volume saga. That being so, it's far too early to fully evaluate SPELLGIVER, but as a riveting, opening installment, City of Shard is five star fantasy. And I'm well into book two!

Profile Image for heysunny.
37 reviews10 followers
May 31, 2018
ARC provided by Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

City of Shards is basically a coming-of-age novel about a strange boy named Larin, who has been having weird outbursts followed by the chanting of three foreign words ever since he was 10. He was adopted by his uncle, Akul, who did everything to keep this strange habit of Larin out of other people's sight, confining her nephew in a four-blocks part of a garbage city called Wormpile. Soon it turns out that he is the servant of a demon God, named Haraf, and will serve as the one who will free the demon from the cages of of the world he was forever confined to.

You know, I had a weird experience with this book.

Usually, I'm the type of person who doesn't enjoy slow-paced books because they bore me to death and hinder me from getting engaged with the story or the characters. With this book, however, I had no such problem, depite it being rather slow-paced and definitely beyond my liking.

I'm almost fully positive that has been the case because of the amazing world-building and the vast amount of possibilities hiding in all the layers of this story. The world is completely anew and unlike what we've ever known of – and while lot of bits of information is thrown at us right from the beginning, which was rather overwhelming as I understood nearly nothing, one by one they're explained in a way that doesn't disrupt the flow of the story and is immersed right within. I found the system of magic very interesting, but my favorite part was how the Gods and religion was portrayed. I loved how this story put the demons and the human gods in a completely new light and didn't follow tradition.

The book is beautifully written, albeit sometimes the fantastic writing turned into useless purple prose to me, but it was bothering only a few times. I loved the characters, although couldn't quite get into Larin until the last portion of the book, but the others were compelling enough not to let that bother me.

If you don't mind slow-paceness of a book but do enjoy new, creative worlds with a story that has lot to offer, pick up this book. I myself can't wait for the adventure to continue and to learn more about the world and especially the demons.
1 review
July 26, 2019
I finished the book in one sitting. I think that's pretty damn important since I only got up once for chocolate cake.

You may know my niece as Jen The Tolkien Gal who often writes snarky and aggressive reviews for poor books, and worships those she loved. I have no clue about where the bugger she got that from.

My precocious and honestly too gregarious niece nagged me for about a week to read City of Shards. I gave in after the fifteenth email, chocolate cake in one hand and surrender in the other. I opened my e-reader, ate my surrender and slapped the chocolate cake on the keyboard.

My niece will be very quick to tell you that my greatest praise comes in the form of insults. (Which is why she is known as queen of omelette making and nothing else) But in the case of Steve, saviour of fantasy, I could not find the precise insult I am looking for, so I will just quote from this book:

" Akul’s forehead became a shriveled prune, the way it did at any display of emotion. You did the right thing, and I’m uh, Proud of you.”

If I manage to insult you worse than my niece, you are truly a wonderful writer.

Well, it's a cliche that cliches are true, but then like most cliches it probably isn't true. What I'm trying to say is this book is bloody good and makes fantasy as a genre credible once again. I'm not going to go into any detail. It's not because I haven't slept in two days and my supply of chocolate cake is waning, but because this book speaks for itself, unlike that chosen one/love triangle/oh-no-the-dark-lord-wants-our-chocolate-cake crap.

Link to the Little pedantic omelette maker's review

Best fantasy book of the year. Amen, go forth. Stop candy crushing on your clever phones and read.

Yours truly,
A Grump

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Profile Image for Paige.
1,733 reviews82 followers
August 19, 2018
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book for free. Thanks! All opinions are my own.

Rating: 3/5

Publication Date: March 30, 2018

Genre: Fantasy

Recommended Age: 15+ (violence, gore, some mature themes)

Pages: 268

Author Website

Amazon Link

Synopsis: In the gang-ridden Wormpile District, 16-year-old Larin shouts nonsense words into the decaying alleyways, a magical tourette’s syndrome that has brought him grief from every neighborhood thug. Protected from the worst beatings by his drug-addicted warrior-uncle, Larin’s life is one of loneliness, trapped in his uncle’s four block safe zone where no gang member dares tread. But when he learns his words have marked him as servant to Lord of Demons, things go from bad to worse. For that phrase has shoved him into the middle of an ancient war between his Master and the Six-Legged gods, both of whom regard humanity as mere playthings.

With his home facing threats from every direction, Larin will have to tread the narrow path between two evils, his only allies his drug-addicted uncle, a permanently drunk priestess, and a high-born wizardress who must hold her nose and work with the street rabble she despises. For as bad as Larin's Master is, refusing to follow him will only plunge his empire into a greater darkness—an abyss so deep, it will turn mankind’s soul to ash.

I felt that this book had some really good writing and the characters are really really really well developed. The plot is also interesting and overall it’s a good book. I felt like it could be an awesome epic fantasy for a lot of people like LOTR is.

However, for me it just wasn’t something I felt drawn to. The backstory is so daunting. The book spans several thousand years and honestly it made me a tiny bit anxious reading it because that’s a lot of information to retain for one book. The book is heavily character driven and it’s really slow in parts. The time jumps are discomforting and when the plot picks up, I just couldn’t get into it at all. The pacing, in my opinion, is too slow.

Verdict: An epic high fantasy novel that would be perfect for LOTR fans!
Profile Image for Jack Keener.
73 reviews
March 29, 2018
I read the first three chapters as part of a teaser. It was very well done fantasy even if a never really understood what the Wormpile even was. It intrigued me to know the boy's curse and to know more about the world he lived in.
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