A shield is good to have, especially if it prevents an alien race from infiltrating your world and wreaking death and destruction. It is also highly inconvenient to lose. But when people are forced to wield new weapons, sometimes they surprise themselves. Laura VanArendonk Baugh’s Shard & Shield pursues classic fantasy visions of magic, alien creatures, and troublesome royalty. Its alien Ryuven are well-crafted, and similar enough to humans for empathy and dissimilar enough to be interesting. The story explores a variety of relationships. Romance has its place, but so do friendship and familial bonds. Due to such loves, two heroes commit a crime that irrevocably harms innocents, but the story never reckons with this severe offense and engineers a deception to help them escape punishment. Still, Shard & Shield will intrigue readers with its world-building and complex relationships.
Best for: Fans of fantasy and character-driven fiction.
Discern: Several fights, all on a limited scale; abuse and cruel punishment is inflicted on slaves, prisoners, and an adolescent boy; one scene depicts a character deliberately arousing another; someone attempts to pressure an unwilling subordinate into sexual relations; some language, mostly mild.