After I finished Defiance (Beyond the Wall Book 2) at the end of January, a couple of conversations took place on various social media:
Needless to say, I did get started on Book 3 right away, and it didn't take me long to discover that Bale wasn't kidding.
I was lying awake last night brainstorming for this review (#writerproblems) and trying to think of a way to describe the structure of this series. The best example I could think of was a wishbone. The Heretic and Defiance brought us two separate stories with different characters, and Shroud slowly brings those stories together. But the game still isn't over. If anything, it's just now actually beginning.
I was a little surprised to find that the book started out by introducing yet another character and story arc with Gant and his band of survivors, but after the way Defiance ended, I could tell this new arc was going to become relevant very quickly. Gant and Weaver and Natasha's storylines were all on a collision course. Characters who had previously been lone wolves - so to speak - were suddenly forced to form alliances and trust one another in order to face a common enemy, and I always love when that sort of thing happens.
I confess to not being totally shocked by a couple of the aforementioned "vicious twists" because once I actually reached them, I realized everything had been flowing so naturally toward the revelations that I was more satisfied than surprised. Most of my predictions were dead wrong, though - I truly didn't have any idea what was coming. The continuation of Gant's story in particular was something I totally wasn't expecting to see, but thinking back to certain details in the previous books, it seems so obvious and inevitable now. The reader finally gets answers to some of the questions they may have had throughout the series, but many of these answers only spawn new questions.
I did have a little bit of trouble keeping track of who was on what side and who had betrayed who, but this was apparently the intention. There's a lot of double-crossing going on and characters are trying to figure out what side they're on. It will be interesting to see what choices they end up making in Book 4.
And speaking of the characters, I've gotten to where I really love the core group in this series. I've always liked anti-hero characters who didn't want to be thrown into the role of hero, so in that sense I've loved Shepherd from the beginning. The preacher remains a mystery, and I love that; some of his dialogue and one-liners crack me up. Natasha is as strong and resourceful as ever, but she's a very damaged person and her problems are starting to catch up to her. I liked seeing a softer-but-still-resilient side of her in this story. Then there's Weaver. In discussing him with Bale upon finishing the book, he mentioned that Weaver's character arc is probably his favorite, and I think I'd have to agree. He has come so far in just a short time; in Defiance, he knew he'd have to make certain choices and do certain things, and there'd be no turning back. Now he's caught up in everything, and he's in this until the end, whether he likes it or not.
It might also be worth it to mention that I tend to fan-cast characters in my head, regardless of what I'm reading. When Weaver was first introduced in Defiance, I saw someone in his mid-to-late 40s but had trouble putting a face to him. As the story progressed and we got a few more physical descriptions, I started seeing something along the lines of Ezio Auditore circa Assassin's Creed: Revelations - a little bit older guy with some gray in his hair and beard, but still strong and capable. Then he was described several times as being tall, and about halfway through Shroud, it hit me: Liam Neeson. Give him Qui-Gon's beard and maybe Bryan Mills's hair, and he'd be perfect. I mentioned this to Bale, and it turns out Liam Neeson is more or less the "official" in-the-author's-head fan-cast for Weaver too. I guess that's just a testament to how well the character is described and written. This happened recently with another character in another book as well, and I applaud authors for writing their characters so well that readers have THAT clear of a picture.
The stakes are higher than ever in the Beyond the Wall series now, and I can't wait to see how it all ends. I was told that the final paragraph of Shroud would be killer, and it was.
About Lucas Bale:
Lucas Bale writes the sort of intense, gripping science-fiction thrillers which make you miss your train. Stories which dig into what makes us human and scrape at the darkness which hides inside every one of us.
His bestselling debut novel, THE HERETIC, is the gateway to the award-winning BEYOND THE WALL series, an epic hard science-fiction space opera about the future of humanity and the discovery of the truth of its past.
He wasn't always a writer. He was a criminal lawyer for fifteen years before he discovered crime doesn't pay and turned to something which actually pays even less. No one ever said he was smart, but at least he's happy. He blushes when people mention him in the same sentence as Banks, Heinlein, or Martin, bless him.
If you'd like to hear about new releases before everyone else, get advance review copies of those new releases and every short story he ever writes for free then subscribe to INSIDE, his semi-regular newsletter, here: www.lucasbale.com/inside
If Twitter is your thing, you'll find him at @balespen