A MelanieM Release Day Review: Shadow Fray (Shadow Fray: Round One) by Bradley Lloyd

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

Family is worth fighting for—and family doesn’t always mean blood.

No one knows what calamity poisoned the earth and decimated the human population, but living close to the toxic ground means illness and death. Justin is determined to keep his twin sister and younger brother from that fate—no matter what he has to do. To earn enough to keep his family safe in a high-rise, Justin enlists in a deadly sport called Shadow Fray. He quickly finds himself in over his head, especially when he is scheduled to face the most dangerous player.

Hale—who competes as Black Jim—knows he won’t be on top forever, despite his skills. He fights for a better life for his daughter, but his time is running out as Shadow Fray becomes increasingly lethal. Something about the newest fighter intrigues him, but does he dare defy his masters to investigate? Justin and Hale will clash in the ring, while beyond it the powerful elite and the crumbling world seem determined to keep them apart. If they can find common ground, they might have a chance to fight for their futures.

Shadow Fray (Shadow Fray: Round One) by Bradley Lloyd is a terrific story.  It’s just the sort of book that gets me thinking on so many levels and that’s due primarily to the excellent world building here.  Lloyd has created a future earth where a catastrophic event, now called The Thinning, has raised the water levels globally, sinking all coastal cities and lands, shattering governments, technologies and making the ground so  toxic that anyone who lives on the surface slowly dies, succumbing to a madness and “ground sickness”.  Those left, reformed into inland cities, mainly Chicago where the government is centered.  People live in the high rises left, the higher the floor the better (and the wealthier the people).  Some technologies were saved from the “before times”, so internet, mobile phones, TV (using only the old tapes of shows and movies stored, nothing new has been produced except Shadow Fray games, more on that soon), cars, trucks and even trains are running.   Farms are run again by the large companies like Exxon and DuPont on raised buildings and guarded by drones, as it everything else.   Some people (the Shutters) never leave their condos, the idea being make your living area and building self sufficient.

Women are few and highly regarded, the toxins in the ground having effected reproduction and gender ratio.  People wanting children have produced babies via utero experiments that turn out to be unis, children with both sexes.  They have the ability to choose a sex when older but are barren.  Most choose to be women another interesting element.  Homosexuality is not only not tolerated but outlawed as they are “non breeders” in a world with few children.  This is a hard, toxic world and for many it’s getting worse.

Lloyd makes us believe in this world because so many of the elements are only stages and layers away from what the scientists have been warning will happen with climate change.  The author folds fact with his imaginative world building and its works, horrifically, on so many levels.  In this book, we don’t get the answers as to why it has happened, but Lloyd says we will in the coming stories.

Then there is the Shadow Fray, a martial arts competition that deadly and underground.  Moved from location to location, with only the fighters and handlers in the know (supposedly), there is so much danger and mystery attached here, that the suspense just builds and builds with each chapter with no let up.  That’s because the more we find out about the Shadow Fray and who runs it, the worse it gets and the more mysteries pile up around it.  Amazing.

Then finally there is the forbidden romance between Hale and Justin.  That takes time to set up and become believable.  Remember it’s forbidden here so the men have to come to grips with their homosexuality too.  Every meeting, every touch?  Could be their last.  Plus each character is so beautifully written.  One at the top of his game, teetering on the brink of being pulled down.  The other?  Being pushed to the top of the very increasingly nasty pile.  And all around them are some of the most intriguing cast of secondary  characters you will want to meet from Justin’s twin sister to his non-speaking brother, to Gris and Hale’s tank thug brother too.  I could go on and on about the people here that match the world building.

Which brings me to the ending.  Argh!!!!

In this title, notice it says Round One (not so in other titles).  Well, it sort of ends like the ringing of a bell at the end of a fight.  Round One done.  No completion, nothing brought to an ending. It sort of halts with one character riding off.  To the next story that we are waiting for. Yes, its frustrating.  But I understand from the author it’s already at the publishers so hopefully we won’t have to wait too long.

The ending notwithstanding,  Shadow Fray is an excellent gritty, compelling story.  I can’t wait to dive into the second one.  Pick up this one if you love alternate universe’s, dystopian societies, mysteries and romance.  Meet you at the second book!

 

Cover art by  Anna Sikorska is amazing.  I love the details and the model.

Sales Links

Available for Purchase at

 

 

Book Details:

ebook, 284 pages
Expected publication: May 30th 2017 by DSP Publications
ISBN139781635333602
Edition LanguageEnglish
SeriesShadow Fray #1

Bradley Lloyd on The Games of Shadow Fray and Shadow Fray (Shadow Fray: Round One) (author guest post, exclusive excerpt and giveaway)

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Shadow Fray (Shadow Fray #1) by Bradley Lloyd
DSP Publications
Cover Artist: Anna Sikorska

Available for Purchase at

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to host Bradley Lloyd here today, talking about his latest release Shadow Fray. Welcome, Bradley!

✒︎

Let’s Play! The Games of Shadow Fray

In reading Shadow Fray, one might think the plot was decidedly adult. Think The Hunger Games but with a healthy dose of Fight Club. While I’m a fan of both titles, the inspiration for Shadow Fray came from a place far more innocent–the games I played as a little kid.

My childhood wasn’t filled with fisticuffs or mixed martial arts lessons; instead, I took daily trips with my siblings and friends to the municipal swimming pool. We played the standard games like Marco Polo, and we took turns swimming under each other’s legs without touching, kind of like an underwater version of the limbo. The game I most remember, though, was one based entirely on imagination.

In this game, our familiar pool became infested with invisible, hungry underwater creatures. You’d be fine if you never touched the bottom, because that’s where they lived. We’d spend all day swimming around, trying not to touch the bottom. If you did touch the bottom, that’s when the little monsters would attack with their nasty bites. Too many bites, and you could die. BUT if you managed to apply the special ointment in time, you could stave off infection and death.

The special ointment was Coppertone sunscreen lotion. The year we invented that game, we never got sunburned, believe me. In fact, we probably went through at least a giant economy bottle a week.

My main goal in writing Shadow Fray was to write something fun–a steamy, action-packed romance. So when I thought about what was most fun, this pool game came to mind, probably at first subconsciously but it morphed into a very important plot point.

In Shadow Fray, the ground has been poison for many years. Unlike the pool game, you can touch the ground, but prolonged exposure results in what the characters refer to as Ground Sickness. Because of this, those with enough money live in high-rises as far from the ground as possible.

For this reason, Justin is forced to fight in the underground tournament known as Shadow Fray. He needs to keep his twin sister and younger brother living safely off the ground, and the only way to supplement their meager income is for him to win. The stakes are high, especially when he faces Hale, a brawler he has long admired. Though they fight for similar reasons, they find themselves at odds, first with each other, and then the greater forces at work in the crumbling world around them.

If you’ve read this far, chances are getting better that you might also read the book, so I’m going to reveal a spoiler-free special secret right here. You won’t find out in the first book what really caused the ground toxification. Do I know? Yes. Will you know eventually? Yes. There’s clues if you want to try to figure it out, and like a good sci-fi, it has a basis in fact. Not revealing everything right away was a tricky decision for me as a writer. Is it realistic that people, after a post-apocalyptic event, wouldn’t know the cause or the remedy? One of the plot points is the misinformation provided by the shady people remaining in power. So, I decided, yes, it could be realistic. Granted, this was all before the election and the influx of “alternative facts,” so I think this choice was the right one to make, even prescient, though it asks the reader to follow me along for a bit.

You see, I think as I got older, my mind went from imagining pool monsters to imagining more realistic monsters, and now I love a good mystery. My favorite childhood game led me to a more adult game of playing sleuth, or maybe hide-and-seek, where it’s the truth that’s hiding. Shadow Fray is all about games, and I sincerely hope you’ll come and play along with me. ~ Bradley Lloyd

Book Blurb

Family is worth fighting for—and family doesn’t always mean blood.

 

No one knows what calamity poisoned the earth and decimated the human population, but living close to the toxic ground means illness and death. Justin is determined to keep his twin sister and younger brother from that fate—no matter what he has to do. To earn enough to keep his family safe in a high-rise, Justin enlists in a deadly sport called Shadow Fray. He quickly finds himself in over his head, especially when he is scheduled to face the most dangerous player.

 

Hale—who competes as Black Jim—knows he won’t be on top forever, despite his skills. He fights for a better life for his daughter, but his time is running out as Shadow Fray becomes increasingly lethal. Something about the newest fighter intrigues him, but does he dare defy his masters to investigate? Justin and Hale will clash in the ring, while beyond it the powerful elite and the crumbling world seem determined to keep them apart. If they can find common ground, they might have a chance to fight for their futures.

Exclusive Excerpt

Since my guest blog post is about childhood games, I thought I would introduce you to one of my favorite characters, the 10-year-old Charlie, who is mute. He’s the much younger brother of our hero, Justin. Even though he doesn’t talk, Charlie is still very expressive, like in this school assignment. In the book, Justin secretly holds on to this letter as a reminder of his reason for fighting in Shadow Fray. It’s also a great introduction to the Shadow Fray world. Enjoy!

Handwriting Practice

The Person I Look Up to Most

To: Sister Tim

From: Charlie

Justin does his best even when it’s hard, even when he’s tired and maybe hurting a little bit. He always shows courage. That’s why he’s the person I look up to the most.

I think we all have secrets to keep. It’s nice to have a little bit of privacy, like from the drones, and my brother tries to give us that. But we never hide. He wants me to have a normal life, whatever that is. My brother keeps secrets, but not from me. And he helps me keep my secrets too. Sometimes we hide from the drones like Shutters, but mostly we pretend like it’s just us.

Justin always tries to do what’s best for my sister and me. He raised me when my sister was at work. He always did lots of stuff with me. He read me books until I could read on my own. I didn’t even need school for that, because he taught me. But our favorite thing to do is watch cartoons.

He tries to keep things from me, but not in a bad way. He puts his tablet down all the time, but I know he’s reading. It’s almost like he doesn’t want anyone to know he reads, not even me. I think he doesn’t want me to be too curious about things. It’s another way he tries to protect me. So we just do kid stuff. But that’s okay.

My brother is really strong. He works out and he lifts weights. He makes me come with him and read a book but I watch him too. I know he stays strong to protect me and my sister. My sister is fertile, and so he always feels like he has to protect her because she’s in danger or something. My sister can take care of herself, but he does it anyway. I like that about him.

Justin’s secret is that he’s really smart. Like, really smart. Someday, my brother is going to figure out what is wrong with the world. He will figure out why all the people got sick and died so long ago, and what happened to poison the ground. Then he’ll find out why there’s not as many girls anymore, and why people can’t have babies. Maybe he’ll even find the cure for ground sickness, but that’s probably asking too much. I mean, he can’t do everything.

Here’s a secret about him and me. He says there’s two kinds of people—people who stay alive and people who go poking their noses where they don’t belong. I don’t say it (ha ha), but I know he’s both, and I’m both too. So really, there’s three kinds of people. But don’t tell him I said that.

He wants me to go to college at Exxon or DuPont in Chicago. I like that idea. Because if my brother doesn’t find out what happened and how to fix it, I want to find out for him. He’d like to take me out of Bruise City to Chicago, but maybe someday I will do that for him instead. Anyway, I like it here, because this is my home, and this is where you are too. Thanks for being the best teacher.

He would be so mad if he knew I wrote this. But I know you keep secrets too. So please keep my secret. I know you will, because you’re the third person I most look up to, and you always tell me I can do anything.

My brother tells me that too.

From: Charlie

P.S. My sister is the second person and I also have a friend named Gristopher Mays and he’s the fourth person. He’s really nice but I haven’t known him as long as I’ve known you.

P.P.S. I think you are that special third kind of person too. Thanks for being the best teacher.

Since my guest blog post is about childhood games, I thought I would introduce you to one of my favorite characters, the 10-year-old Charlie, who is mute. He’s the much younger brother of our hero, Justin. Even though he doesn’t talk, Charlie is still very expressive, like in this school assignment. In the book, Justin secretly holds on to this letter as a reminder of his reason for fighting in Shadow Fray. It’s also a great introduction to the Shadow Fray world. Enjoy!

Giveaway

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About the Author

Bradley Lloyd is a Chicago-born author who studied Creative Writing at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. He was raised in a conservative religious household but became aware of his sexuality at a very young age—about the same age he learned of his ancestry to Hans Christian Andersen. Inspired by this knowledge, writing became an outlet that helped him cope with inner conflicts and bullying.

Of course, he was no angel and occasionally used his storytelling powers for evil. He once convinced the neighborhood children that gnomes had been real before all being turned into lawn ornaments.

Later, these experiences lead him to work with middle-school students. Now a teacher in the inner city, he shares his love of writing with a captive audience of kids, who are thrilled with true(ish) tales of their haunted school building. 

Interestingly, his favorite UFC fighter and former world champion was a student at his school, and when Brad is not reading or writing, you might find him hosting the next UFC pay-per-view event party. His dreams of becoming an ultimate fighter are realized vicariously through his stories and video games.

Brad is happily married to a wonderful husband. Their tenth anniversary was also the day same-sex marriage became legal, and they were couple number seven at the courthouse.

You can read more of Brad’s (free) tales on his website BradleyLloyd.com, check him out on Medium, follow IMBradleyLloyd on Facebook and Twitter,

or e-mail him directly at IMBradleyLloyd@BradleyLloyd.com