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Realmshift Paperback – April 7, 2010
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"RealmShift is phenomenal. If it's not already on your bookshelf it should be." - Midwest Book Review
"...an intriguing read that has stacks of appeal for lovers of dark fantasy and thrillers." - Scenes & Sequels podcast
"...a thoroughly enjoyable and thrilling book--and one that showcases a writer unafraid of throwing universe-sized ideas out there, before nailing them to the page like a pro." - Fantasy Faction
"For lovers of dark fantasies, thrillers or just a bloody good read, this book comes highly recommended." - Book Lover's Club
The title draws intrigue. Impressionable cover art, glossed, and a staccato opening - almost literary - clinches it... Twice, ensconced in a tram, reading this 452 page tale, I missed my stop. Isiah, the protagonist is an immortal who detects demon sulphur on Earth. Missions all over the world but now one in his own backyard. Isiah is having one ass of a day... Alan Baxter introduces us to a mystical world, a shadowed realm with forces beyond comprehension or principle... Mr. Baxter writes with conviction; he writes differently rather well... the overall effect, more so for a first time author, is notably fine. Physical and dimensional conflict is one of the best features of the tale. Effortless script makes gullible the reader, carrying him to a destination, any destination, manic laughter fading... Prose flows smoothly, almost poetic. RealmShift is a novel I am loath to put down. A most surprising read. Quite a ride. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
Top customer reviews
multi-genre epic: dark urban fantasy, thriller, noir and horror, all
rolled seamlessly together.
In a world where every god and demon from every culture is exactly as
real as its followers believe it to be, Isiah is an immortal enforcer
for the Balance, a meta-deity that polices these strange and contrary
The story here is quite straightforward without being simple. The
Balance tells Isiah what it needs to happen early on in the book--the
fun is in seeing how it all plays out. There are plenty of twists and
wrinkles in the plot, but the story goes exactly where it's intended
without ever cheating.
The characters are deftly drawn. Even though there are greater forces
are dragging them into the conflict, the humans do their best to make
their own choices. The story really does hinge on what they have
learned throughout their journey. For all his power, Isiah is not
allowed to directly enact the Balance's will: his role is to prevent
gods and demons from interfering with ordinary humans.
Isiah himself is a bit seedy for a superman, which makes helps make
him sympathetic. He's quite moral, like the Balance he serves, but
he's a long way from being a saint. He's a man with a dirty job to do;
he's allowed to complain every now and again.
I'm a sucker for a good villain, and Carlos Villalopez, the primary
antagonist, is twisted and vicious and still sympathetic. Samuel
Harrigan, who is perhaps the real villain, is a talented psychopath
upon whose damned existence the Balance hangs. Much as Isiah despises
him, he has to protect the vicious bastard throughout the book and I
enjoyed seeing the hero compromised in this way. This dynamic makes
the book for me.
RealmShift does slow down through the middle as some of the characters
have to literally waste time while the rest of the pieces get in
place. Baxter fills this with exposition about the cosmology and the
way that 'magic system' works. To his credit, this never really feels
like an info dump--although it does drag a little. But even when the
pace of the story slowed, RealmShift never lost my attention.
This book is generally quite pacy and there are a few occasions where
it surprises you with a sudden laugh or an unexpected moment of
contemplation. The action scenes blend martial arts with magic without
getting breathless or self-indulgent. Dialogue is good and natural,
although on rare occasions the American characters sound British.
A good smart read. This is multi-genre spec fiction done right. I had
a great time with RealmShift and I'm looking forward to the sequel,
Baxter is a master of the written battle scene. With so many of those, and many equally masterful escape scenes, I found the book constantly leaving me wanting more. Best of all, it continuously delivered. The built up from the start of the book to the final scene was excellently done.
If I had any negatives to say about RealmShift they would be related to the transitional parts of the story. Those scenes all books have to ease you down from the high points and fill in the little story line details. There were times I felt what person really talks that way? But those are minor issues, and I'm sure most of think we would write something differently from what the author gave us.
My higher take away from Baxter's RealmShift is, in the end, life's simple lesson of you can do anything you truly believe in is true. Focus the energy around you on your demons and you can defeat them.
The plot revolves around Isiah, an immortal tool for the Balance, which facilitates change within the world by maintaining order between good and evil. Humans unknowingly create their own realities with faith, which brings all manner of gods and religions into the cosmology who exist because of the humans who believe in them. Isiah is tasked with rescuing recently-deceased occult-practitioner Samuel Harrigan from Hell after he reneged on a deal with Satan. The Balance wants Samuel to complete a trip he had planned to Guatemala (for purposes of acquiring a crystal skull) so that Samuel can kill mercenary-sociopath Carlos Villalopez, who in turn would have murdered American eco-journalist Katherine Bailey, whose presence will convince a tribe to receive inoculations and prevent the death of a god when the tribe dies out. (This isn't a spoiler, as the Balance tells all of this to Isiah within the first couple of chapters.)
I prefer character-driven stories. This is primarily why I found the characters in this novel--with the exception of Isiah--to be predictable and somewhat monotonous. The story shifts point-of-view between Isiah, Katherine, and Carlos as they all travel separately for different purposes to Guatemala where they will eventually intersect. Isiah is the most well-developed "gray" character who is neither good nor evil. Katherine represents the "good" journalist with noble intentions while Carlos is the "evil" mercenary out to kill/rape/torture anyone he comes across, and after the first few chapters in their p-of-v, I found myself becoming impatient to get back to the chapters featuring Isiah. The chapters of Katherine and Carlos were well-written and descriptive; I just found myself growing bored with these human caricatures. There's only so much murder and mayhem you can read before it all runs together. Likewise, I found myself wanting to roll my eyes after a few chapters of Katherine's good will toward men ideals.
The tone of the omniscient narrator is extremely distant and unemotional, almost as if the events are being relayed by a bored entity. I can see where this might have been deliberate on the author's part, but this style made it very difficult for me to become invested in the story, and easy to set the book down and pick back up as opposed to reading straight through.
The pacing was noticeably faster during the chapters featuring Isiah, as those are the only ones containing fantastical elements (fight scenes with Satan and his minions, dealing with archangel Gabriel and a group of vampires); particularly engrossing was the scene when Isiah journeys into Hell to steal Samuel's soul from the devil. Carlos and Katherine chapters are mired in reality. I honestly think this story could have benefitted from cutting some of the chapters focusing on those two characters as they don't seem to serve any purpose other than representations of opposing forces. Had the novel focused solely on Isiah's journey with Samuel--a wretched human being who Isiah is forced to protect from Satan--I probably would have enjoyed it much more. One irritation I had was the manner in which Isiah dealt with Samuel: a murdering scum who kills two people right in front of Isiah during their mad rush to escape the devil. Isiah kept threatening Samuel with dire consequences but never followed through when Samuel called his bluff. As an immortal being, surely he could have enacted some kind of psychic smack-down without killing him? I was also mildly disappointed by the very Christianized physical description of the devil and Hell when the cosmology of the novel encompasses so many different religions.
Aside from these, I enjoyed the story for what it was. The plot was interesting and the ideas suggested have a very "Matrix" feel to them, questions upon questions upon questions type of thing. There is a sequel advertised on the last page, and honestly, I have little or no interest in reading it. Isiah was an interesting character, but the end of the story had a very "pat" wrapped-up feel, and I would have preferred a less predictable close to a dark fantasy novel.
Most recent customer reviews
Loved this story (and the next one) and the world its set in.Read more
It's the story of Isiah, a powerful magician and agent of a spiritual entity...Read more