Synopsis: David Morr runs away from an unhappy home to join a small traveling circus. Here he meets a quirky assortment of characters, each one of whom will test and challenge David. As plague sweeps across the land, turning ordinary people into mindless monsters, the performers find themselves fighting for their lives against crazed mobs. All the while, the Empire of Tockland is on the rise, and the cruel tyrant, Joseph Mattock, is conquering one city after another. Can David and his fellow performers survive where plague, madness and tyranny collide in a brutal struggle for survival?
Review: Shadows of Tockland by Jeffrey Aaron Miller is a finely crafted, darkly suspenseful investigation of the price of both running away and facing the consequences. Set in a post-apocalyptic future, the plot is defined by flawed but beautiful characters and intense imagery. Though bad things happen and the reader sympathizes, Miller manages to stay firmly on this side of the pity line as he illustrates not just hope, but the reasons behind it no matter how dark the situation may appear.
His prose, though tightly woven, is often lyrical, especially when coming from David, the protagonist.
“Not exactly the grief of leaving behind a loved one, but the inner crumbling of an old life, all its respective memories and experiences toppling into darkness, out of reach.”
Miller’s use of voice is distinctive and individual for every character and so we come to know them, love them, hate them and occasionally, cry for them. We know Cakey is a demented poet long before he enters the maelstrom of a fire fight in progress, just as we know Belle for the wounded, courageous guardian chapters ahead of her decision to defend the helpless. David is us; with all his wounds and scars, trying to choose the right without adding to his pain or anyone else’s. Yet, when offered the impossible choice, he is courageous enough to release his own demons in defense of those he loves.
As soon as he pointed the pistol at the back of her head, David felt the rush of poison, the breaking in his mind. If he could have, he would’ve chewed through the clip holding him to the contraption and flung himself at General Mattock, gnashing teeth and clawing flesh.
With precision and vision, Miller introduces us to a world of terrible choices and determined hope. Shadows of Tockland is a five star read and one you won’t want to miss.
Jeffrey Aaron Miller has held a wide variety of jobs over the years, but at heart, he has remained a storyteller. He is the author of numerous novels, both print and e-books, in the genres of science fiction, fantasy and YA. He resides in Northwest Arkansas with his wife and children.