A Pale Box on the Distant Shore by PJ Nwosu

The Big Peat

Darth Buddha
Apr 9, 2016
By way of introductory remarks, I’d like to say that before I got PJ Nwosu’s A Pale Box on the Distant Shore on Netgalley, I only knew this claimed to be a dark fantasy with a murder mystery.

That was enough. When it comes to fictional murder, I am a big fan. Dark fantasy is a bit more hit and miss with me, but I love the idea of it. Fantasy that takes on an uncanny, macabre, horrifying atmosphere hits a sweet spot for me.

A Pale Box on the Distant Shore really hit it.

Death City, the setting for this book and a name right out of heavy metal, is a place of plagues and heresy, social stratification and secret loves, bronze blades and dead gods, and just general ****ing creepiness. This is the sort of thing RJ Barker might put out, or CJ Cherryh in the Morgaine series. The very first act has an unwelcome discovery in a coffin – said Pale Box – and things only escalate. It’s generally quite difficult to have something more unwelcome than the standard occupant when it comes to coffins, but I really felt the soldiers’ sense of revulsion.

Or for the short version, PJ Nwosu researches ghoulish things, has a nasty mind, and writes vivid prose.

That, sweet friends, is a winning combination.

Atmosphere aside, I could pick at things. The mystery was more of the lead the detective by the nose and unravel it all at the end than the give the reader a chance to solve it kind, and I prefer the latter. Character wise, our detective Soldier Honnan Skyin didn’t really rise above the story, and nor did those around him. Fair enough in a vibe-heavy novella, but I don’t think that’d work for me in a full novel. The worldbuilding was intriguing but probably gave me more questions about the world than answers. Still, that’s not an awful thing. It does make me want to read the next Red Kingdom book Nwosu releases.

And I do, I really really do. A Pale Box on the Distant Shore was good creepy fun, an accomplished work for a new author. But with some space to really work with and some more experience? PJ Nwosu could turn into one of my favourite authors.

Since it seems the full length Dream of Death City is out now or soon, looks like I’ll get to find out soon. I suggest that all of you who like it dark and mysterious come join me.

(review originally posted at A Pale Box on the Distant Shore by PJ Nwosu)

Similar threads