Dark Isles: Deliverance by Brian Shinomiya is a well-drawn work of military sci-fi following Zayta Holtcoughski, a soldier who’s been primed for battle from a very young age. When a space mission goes awry, Zayta is thrown from the ship in an escape pod and lands on a foreign world where medieval weaponry is the norm, and the planet is deep in conflict. Zayta joins the war, but he’s torn between staying in this brutal world and starting a new life, or returning to who he once was.
A glance at the cover – and the title – and you might be led to believe this novel is a medieval fantasy, which it only is in part. In actuality, Dark Isles is a work of science fiction, which then switches into fantasy a fair bit into the book. The novel handles both these genres very well, but the cover could throw some readers off, and really result in military sci-fi fans not giving it a second glance, given how the book presents itself.
This is a shame, as Shinomiya combines both science fiction and medieval fantasy very well. The protagonist’s modern first-person voice offers a compelling juxtaposition to the fantasy world yet to come. All told, Dark Isles: Deliverance is a richly imagined mesh of genres that will satisfy both sci-fi and fantasy readers, and marks an exciting first installment of a new series.