Review | The Shadows of Dust – Alec Hutson

About the book

The Streams bind together the vast reaches of the stellar tributary, plied by brave streamsurfers and their telepathic starbeasts. Some of these adventurers are heroes. Some are rogues. And some just want to return from the void with their bodies and minds unbroken . . .

Kerin thon Talisien is the heir to a legendary name. When he was a young boy, his grandfather swooped down from the stars and rescued him from the slums of his homeworld. But with the death of the infamous old streamsurfer, Kerin and his crew have fallen on hard times, exiled from the Starfarers Guild and forced to take on risky contracts in the shadowy margins of the stellar tributary. A strange encounter in a glimmer den offers a chance at redemption and glory . . . but the stakes are high, with the fate of the Known potentially hanging in the balance.

469 pages (kindle)
Published on January 3, 2021
Buy the book

I edited this novel.

First of all, LOOK AT THAT COVER.


Isn’t it great?

Okay, now that that’s out of the way…

Alec Hutson’s email seeing if I was available for an edit came through at the exact moment I was buying all his books off Amazon. Talk about timing. 

I’m a big fan of Hutson. He has a knack for worldbuilding that I’ve always really admired, but it wasn’t until I was editing this book that I realized just how good at worldbuilding he really is. The Shadows of Dust continually blew my mind. I can absolutely say there is literally nothing else in the fantasy genre that is like this book, and that is the best possible compliment. In fact, I don’t even think this is fantasy. Or, it is, but it’s not. It’s not SciFi either. It’s its very own genre and boy howdy, do I feel some kinship with authors that create their own genres (*glares meaningfully at her own books*). 

I’ve read a bajillion books, and I’ve never read another like this. Considering how much I read and how much I edit, that’s really saying something quite meaningful. Do not take that lightly.

And here’s the beauty of it. You can prepare yourself for different all you want, but I guarantee that you won’t prepare yourself enough for just how different and wonderful this book actually is. There’s just no girding yourself for what you’ll get in The Shadows of Dust. I mean, what genre does space surfing dudes on the backs of gigantic telepathic turtles and squid belong in? Have you ever heard of such a thing? Because I sure haven’t. 

If that doesn’t sound awesome enough, you’ve got anthropomorphic characters here, space pirates, ancient magic and feuds that span eons, empires clashing, and so much more. 

I mean, I don’t know what genre this book is, but it’s absolutely fantastic from bottom to top. 

Kerin thon Talisien is an out-for himself mercenary who plies the stellar tributaries on the back of his gigantic, telepathically linked turtle, Drifter. Things happen, and he ends up with an unexpected companion who makes him question everything. Plus, now he’s the target of a lich (which, trust me, is as FREAKING AWESOME as that sounds. This lich became my book boyfriend. I professed my undying love of him in my editorial comments.). Together, they end up on a planet called Dust, while they attempt to regroup and learn about some ancient artifacts that have suddenly become bound up in their story. On Dust, everything kind of explodes. The book changes from being a story about a guy in this situation, and moves to being about a clash of empires, ancient civilizations, religion, ghosts, armies, and so much more. 

I mean, this book is EPIC.

But more than that, what I loved so much here, was that Hutson didn’t really sacrifice anything for anything else. What I mean by this is, he didn’t sacrifice worldbuilding for characters, and he didn’t sacrifice characters for his magic system and the like. (And the fact that he managed all this without infodumps still blows my mind.) Every element was perfectly balanced, and due to this, the reader is left with this really interesting book that is both one of the most epic stories I’ve ever read, and also one of the most intimate. Kerin is a character that grows as the novel progresses, and I truly enjoyed seeing his more personal journey, the transformation of the relationships that are core to this book. The way his past impacts who he is in this novel, and who he ends up being by the novel’s end. 

Furthermore, there are nuances to each of the characters, even the secondary ones, that I just dug. There is no laughing, maniacal evil guy here. Hutson does a great job at showing how each side feels justified in their aims, and while you will inevitably sympathize with some more than others, he does an amazing job at humanizing everyone’s stories, even those who seem a bit beyond humanization. 

Hutson has a knack for plot and pacing. There’s never a moment in this book that drags. There were quite a few times when I was saying, “just one more chapter…” as I was editing and before I knew it, the entire day had slid right past me, and I still couldn’t pull myself away from the book. No, I’ll go even further. There were vast stretches of this book I got so completely absorbed in, I literally forgot to edit. So in all reality, I think I’ve probably read The Shadows of Dust at least three times due to that. I mean, this sucker starts going and it just does not quit until the end. And then… that ending! I was left reeling, and I instantly sent an email to Hutson, “Please, for the love of god, tell me THERE IS MORE.” 

If you’ve read Hutson’s previous work, expect the same high quality, but that is just about where similarities end. There’s nothing about The Shadows of Dust that is like anything else on the market, and that’s only part of what makes it such a strong work. There’s vision here, scope, fantastic writing, a shocking amount of depth, and a relentless plot that grabs you by the throat and refuses to let go. The Shadows of Dust was one of the best books I have ever edited. It really knocked my socks off. I spent most of my time working on this book reeling, because the entire thing is just so POWERFULLY UNIQUE. 

I am always looking for a book that is truly in a class of its own. I long for the stories that are different in just about every respect. Give me space mercinaries on flying telepathic turtles. Give me lich armies. Give me ancient magic and long, lost civilizations. Give me ghosts, and clashing empires on some oddball planet. Give me a plot that refuses to let go. Give me dynamic, nuanced characters. 

Give me The Shadows of Dust

5/5 stars