Reviewed by Alex Bardy (@mangozoid)
This is book one of the Schattenreich, a new fantasy series which holds geology at its core, and is set against an intriguing Celtic/Germanic backdrop, encompassing elements of science-fantasy, the supernatural and occult, as well as various surreal paranormal episodes. Thereâ€™s also a weird romance in here somewhere, and a bit of a detective thriller thing going on too, so in terms of covering all bases, I think the author has done extremely well…
That said, the mantra of â€œwrite what you knowâ€ among wannabe writers is definitely the case here… Sharon studied geophysics and geosciences back in Texas, before moving to Germany in order to pursue a career as a seismologist. An interesting background that sets out the immediate geometry for Primary Fault… [See what I did there? Lol]
After recovering from a car crash that claimed her mother, Caitlin Schwarzbach leaves Texas and heads for Cologne, ostensibly to start anew and join her brother, Augustus, from whom sheâ€™d been separated at an early age. Brother Gus just happens to be the leading seismologist expert in the country, regularly called upon for advice and interviews in the local media, as well as holding the key to a planned new tech area of the city which hinges on his seismology findings report.
No sooner does Caitlin land at Cologne-Bonn airport, she encounters a reality shift in which her brother and a strange blonde are trying to drag her through a glass wall that appears out of nowhere. Things donâ€™t get any easier when a short while later her brother is accused of sexual assault and wanted by the police, setting the scene for him to mysteriously disappear and for her to bump into his devastatingly suave friend and colleague, Hagen von der Lahn. Sinister goings on ensue as she gradually finds herself falling in love with the aristocratic Hagen, and meets a number of other shady characters, all of whom seem to take sides and align themselves one way or the other.
While investigating the truth behind her brotherâ€™s disappearance, Caitlin uncovers his doppelganger, and enlists the aid of a local reporter/columnist to help expose him to the local police. All the while she continues to experience shifts in reality as the dreams and visions start coming thick and fast, suggesting that she holds some form of innate power to make a difference in an alternate world totally at odds with her own reality.
Like a giant onion, there are layers upon layers that are gradually peeled away, and we soon learn that Hagenâ€™s enigmatic past goes way beyond a fancy estate and grand heritage, for he is none other than steward/curator for the mysterious Schattenreich, a shadowy Otherworld which itself sits atop Anderwelt, an underworld in which gods, goddesses and death itself are all too real, the latter preferring to float in the upper world searching for souls to collect.
And Iâ€™m not sure I need say much more â€” this is a complex, intricate fictional web that grabs you early on and plunges you into a surreal world within a world, before pulling you out again and setting you up for the next trip. And so it continues, with Caitlinâ€™s investigations and romance with Hagen forming the crux of an erratic spider web of intrigue and suspense…
This is a neatly plotted work, and certainly different to anything else Iâ€™ve read in a long time, but did I actually enjoy it? Sort of… the ideas and reality shifts are brilliantly done, the writing itself quite decent, but the overall tone, the â€˜voiceâ€™ if you will, just didnâ€™t gel with me, unfortunately.
If any of the above has touched a nerve with you, I would heartily suggest you dive in and see for yourself. It could prove very rewarding.