Beneath the Twisted Trees by Bradley P. Beaulieu science fiction and fantasy book and audiobook reviewsBeneath the Twisted Trees by Bradley P. Beaulieu science fiction and fantasy book and audiobook reviewsBeneath the Twisted Trees by Bradley P. Beaulieu

I have to confess right up front, with apologies to the author, that I finished Bradley Beaulieu’s Beneath the Twisted Trees (2019) just before heading out on a 40+ day trip out west that meshed college visits (for my son, not me) and hiking, and I unfortunately left my marked-up copy at home. Which means a) I have no access to my notes and b) thanks to full days and being off the grid so much, it’s been a while since I read it and c) thanks to A and B, this review will be more vaguely referenced than most of mine.

Beneath the Twisted Trees is the fourth in Beaulieu’s desert-based THE SONG OF THE SHATTERED SANDS series. I’ve given each of its predecessors a four-star rating, a trend that continues here, mostly due to the same strengths (many) and weaknesses (fewer). There’s something to be said for consistency (especially at that level).

Characterization and world-building remain among those consistent strengths. While Çeda continues to be the main focus, and solidly so, I actually found myself this time around more engaged and compelled by some of the other characters’ storylines and development, in particular Brama, who had a particularly emotionally wrenching and taut plot line that opened up unexpected facets of this world (and another character in it); Emre, who has moved from a relatively stock character to one of fuller complexity; and one of the surviving Kings, whose machinations and motivations continue to intrigue me. Çeda’s plot, on the other hand, felt a bit paler in comparison, as well as a little more perfunctory. That being said, her storyline also offers up some of the most painfully poignant moments, so there’s that to counter-balance the (only relatively) weaker aspects.

Song of Shattered Sands (4 book series) Kindle EditionPlotting continues to be complex as various storylines go their separate ways or intertwine/converge. A few blips gave me some pause (such as the solution to the Asia problem or the surprising ineffectiveness of the Kings), and as with the earlier books a few pacing issues arose. Similarly, each of the books feels just a bit overlong and the same is true here, so that it feels like the entire series could be streamlined by a few hundred pages. Despite those (relatively minor) issues, I happily read the novel in a single sitting. While some storylines are resolved, or at least brought to a satisfying point, other remain wide open. Some riddles are solved; new ones arise. And some of the back myths are revealed, while Beaulieu holds back on a full explanation. In other words, Beneath the Twisted Trees does what any fourth book in a series should do, meaning I’m already looking forward to book five.

Published in July 2019. The fourth book in The Song of Shattered Sands series–an epic fantasy with a desert setting, filled with rich worldbuilding and pulse-pounding action. When a battle to eradicate the Thirteenth Tribe goes awry, the kingdoms bordering the desert metropolis of Sharakhai see the city as weak and ripe for conquest. Çeda, now leader of the Shieldwives, a band of skilled desert swordswomen, hopes to use the growing chaos to gain freedom for Sehid-Alaz, the ancient, undying king of her people. Freeing him is only the beginning, however. Like all the people of her tribe on that fateful night four centuries earlier, Sehid-Alaz was cursed, turned into an asir, a twisted, miserable creature beholden to the kings of Sharakhai—to truly free her king, Çeda must break the chains that bind him. As Sharakhai’s enemies close in and the assault on the city begins, Çeda works feverishly to unlock the mysteries of the asirim’s curse. But danger lies everywhere. Enemy forces roam the city; the Blade Maidens close in on her; her own father, one of the kings of Sharakhai, wants Çeda to hang. Worst of all, the gods themselves have begun to take notice of Çeda’s pursuits. When the combined might of Sharakhai and the desert gods corner the survivors of the Thirteenth Tribe in a mountain fastness, the very place that nearly saw their annihilation centuries ago, Çeda knows the time has come. She was once an elite warrior in service to the kings of Sharakhai. She has been an assassin in dark places. A weapon poised to strike from the shadows. A voice from the darkness, striving to free her people. No longer. Now she’s going to lead. The age of the Kings is coming to an end . . .


  • Bill Capossere

    BILL CAPOSSERE, who's been with us since June 2007, lives in Rochester NY, where he is an English adjunct by day and a writer by night. His essays and stories have appeared in Colorado Review, Rosebud, Alaska Quarterly, and other literary journals, along with a few anthologies, and been recognized in the "Notable Essays" section of Best American Essays. His children's work has appeared in several magazines, while his plays have been given stage readings at GEVA Theatre and Bristol Valley Playhouse. When he's not writing, reading, reviewing, or teaching, he can usually be found with his wife and son on the frisbee golf course or the ultimate frisbee field.