European Review of Speculative Fiction

Andor Bochenkov

 

Title: Grayshade

Author: Gregory Wilson

Sometimes a book turns out better than it has any right to. Somehow Grayshade, which starts as a genre comforting spin on gritty fantasy and feels like a shared world built by gamers, turns into something more, something intriguing and seductive. Titled after the narrator, a religiously driven killer, author Gregory Wilson takes his unreliable narrator through the wringer and out to a new place beyond the reader’s expectations. When you forget the author and fully give in to the verisimilitude of the worldbuilding, you know you’ve got a winner.

Wilson paints his wider world with spare references to places beyond the ken of Grayshade, the fanatic assassin who begins to question his purpose and more impotently begins to suffer. Wilson’s an English professor and it shows – his allusions to classical literature are many and well placed. Shades of the blind Tiresias who finally sees echo as Grayshade goes from murder to doubt to potential protector. More than anything else, this fast paced adventure evolves in its finessed transformation of the narrator. “Like Flowers for Algernon” or “Time Considered as a Helix of Semi-precious Stones” Wilson wraps the revelatory and morally important nature of his main character’s journey in a great story.

We ache for Grayshade as he learns about the world outside him, not just geographically beyond the little city where his cult reigns supreme but beyond his mental walls. Wilson keeps the hints spare and action flowing; he does not ever sacrifice a scene for exposition. So there’s a mystery here for the reader to solve, a set of breadcrumbs set out like tiny clues and embedded Easter Eggs that make the process of getting to the denouement much sweeter. Plus, it’s just plain fun. What should be a shady guy (literary pun intended by Wilson?) who “learns his lesson” and becomes one of the good / not so shady guys becomes a timely study in the price of fanaticism and the burden of violent faith. Look for the book and be prepared to wait for the sequel. Grayshade will get under your skin.