Review – SHIELD AND CROCUS by Michael R. Underwood

Last night, I finished reading a new novel by relative newcomer, Michael R. Underwood. Shield and Crocus.  Below is my Goodreads review.


This book was hard to quantify, for me.

Called New Weird (which is a genre I am not well-versed in) by the author, I didn’t really know what to expect, and that turned out to be a good thing. In many ways, this book was unlike anything that I had ever read, before. The setting–a city built within the bones of a fallen Titan–is amazingly ingenious, and I found myself, over and over again, staring at the map, saying, “God, I wish I’d thought of that.”

Pulling together aspects of Fantasy (magic and distinct, fantastical races), Sci Fi (robotics, human experimentation), and Comics (superheroes) and binding them all together in a densely fleshed out world with solid, interesting and believable characters, I found myself in a sort of Geek-topia. Here, all elaborately braided together, were many of my favorite things in one, tasty morsel. And that part of it was really well done.

What I find myself somewhat disappointed in, was the ending. In so many ways, through the first two-thirds of the novel, this book had me thinking that here was a story unlike any I had ever seen before. It had me charging, full speed, toward the ending, because I just knew that Mike Underwood had something new and unpredictable in store for me… There was a moment when I saw two possible outcomes. One predictable and somewhat traditional–the sequel prep ending–and the other, new and shocking and unpredictable and full of a finality that we don’t often get in Fantasy books. And I guess, because I was so blown away by the freshness of the rest of the story, I really got my hopes set on a fresh ending.

Don’t get me wrong. The ending was satisfactory, and if you asked me if I would recommend the book, I would say, “Yes.” I will read whatever Underwood puts out, next, and I will continue to drool over his genius setting and that beautiful stunner of a cover. BUT–I wanted something more. I wanted NEW–the very thing that I enjoyed most about the book got lost, in the final pages, and that, for me, was a bit disappointing.

I also (and I REALLY hate to sound so nitpicky) found some of the editing misses (typos, misworded sentences, odd shifts in a character’s location, etc.) to be somewhat jarring, drawing me away, momentarily, from the flow of the story.

Because of that, I would have honestly given the book a 3.5 star rating–but I wanted to give Mr. Underwood the benefit of that extra half star. I was fortunate enough to have met him, briefly, at a convention and he was gracious, friendly, and funny to talk to, and I wish him the very best of luck with his career, and I look forward to more forays into the New Weird, both from him and others.


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