By Kitewriter, Jul 5 2017 09:38AM
The Isle of Elshivido and other short stories is a strong addition to the steampunk-fueled Orran series, written by Timothy Howard. In this anthology we meet various characters from colourful walks of life including noble pirate activists and tutu wearing thieves, living on a collection of islands known as the Orran Sealands and the Orran Skylands. The anthology gives a glimpse on the cultural conflicts on the islands, as well as provide satisfying character development despite the limitations of the short story structure.
When the reader first purchases the book, they'll notice two things. Firstly, they will notice the stunning cover, something that ebooks in particular don't tend to invest in. Secondly, the reader will notice a small map which illustrates the islands that the anthology is based on. This is a nice reference for readers who are interested in placing the stories. The anthology then kick-starts with a small poem that describes the archipelago setting. Poetry can be as much about presentation as it is word choice, which is why I found it a shame that the publisher decided to split the poem across two pages when it could have easily fit on a single page. This makes the poem look messy which will not appeal to readers. Word choice however, has fallen in the realms of cliché, as while the first stanza is interesting and describes the world nicely, the second stanza is awfully cliché with lines such as “adventure and wonder”. This is not the best start to what is a fun read.
The short stories themselves are adventurous, exciting and refreshingly varied. The titular short story, The Isle of Elshivido, follows Captain Cortain's crew investigating a rumour promising fortune. It features fascinating characters, in particular the captain, a young gay romancer who has an unusually calm persona. Another short story that particularly stands out is 'Beauty in Art', which centres on a quiet and lonely man named Trevor Fruastenhause who falls in love with a painting. While the plot may sound simple, Timothy Howard manages to create a powerful atmosphere and develops suspense in the story which holds a profound ending.
Timothy Howard's work is often character driven, and The Isle of Elshivido is no exception. The characters in the anthology are mostly compelling and will capture the reader's interest, including beer loving engineer Hayley who discovers her employer's dark secret and honour-bound Osfafina, a warrior forced to re-examine her way of life. Readers will find that many of the heroes in the anthology are likeable with some strong personalities creating memorable story arcs. Readers will also be pleased that character development hasn't been forced through a thread of characters deliberately making frustrating mistakes, instead readers will learn more about the characters through interesting dialogue, decision making and action sequences. Unfortunately there are times when the author will flood the reader with information both about the characters and the culture of the island, but these are forgivable and thankfully not too frequent.
Finally, one of the key questions fellow readers of this review may like to know is what of the writing quality? In this modern age where it is easy to self publish, writing quality can be a red hot game of chance with potential readers placing bets on whether they're going to get a book of rubble or a goldmine. The Isle of Elshivido is honestly a bit of both. You will find jumpy paragraphs, misspellings such as 'piecred ear' and various grammar and punctuation issues such as 'holding the boat securely it in place' and 'with four square pockets His long black hair'. However you will also find a good deal of humour such as “They attempted to draw their weapons only to discover they were missing and patted their sides in confusion."
Readers will find that the story quality is the best selling point of this anthology. They are fun and at times dark, enjoyable and a great addition to the adventurous steampunk genre.
You can find The Isle of Elshivido on sale on Amazon for £1.50 at the time of writing.