Shifting Horizons (The Denounced Series #2)Shifting Horizons by S.J. Sherwood
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Shifting Horizons is the second in S.J. Sherwood’s Denounced series. It starts immediately where A Grey Sun finished. I was a little confused with the first few paragraphs until I realised that Ned, the main character, was confused. It was such a well written bit of disorientation that it worked on me as a reader.

Shifting Horizons (The Denounced )

There’s depth, conflict and a series of obstacles in Shifting Horizons. The title shows how Ned and Pod 15’s view of the world changes. At the end of A Grey Sun they’d broken out of the training dome. They’d been sent there after their faked executions. In Shifting Horizons they find themselves on the edge of the Sahara desert. The story is their struggle to evade the hunters attempting to recapture them.

Pod 15 aren’t united. There’s a conflict between Ned and a couple of others. They believe that they’ve passed the test Ilse set for them, and that it is safe to go back. Ned rejects this and takes them on a mad dive through a flooded cavern system. After which they break out into the desert as the only way to get away from their pursuit. The conflict is cut short by a sandstorm, then they’re rescued by a nomadic tribe lead by the enigmatic Omar.

Broadening Horizons

There’s a whole philosophic exploration here, but done gently and subtly. Ned is helped to think on broader horizons than he’d had before. Ned is shown a path that could mean freedom, not just for him but also for other Denounced. It’s not a safe path, and he has choices. Conversations with Omar, the other members of Pod 15, and Ned’s inner dialogue brought depth to his character, and to the others too. We can see Ned’s inner conflict, the temptations and frustrations.

There’s external conflict too. Omar isn’t necessarily as benevolent as he first appears. He’s playing both sides in a political game to suit his agenda and protect his tribe. That’s mirrored in the internal tensions between the six members of Pod 15. Ned finds two opposed, one neutral and two supportive. At all turns there’s effort to cut Ned adrift from the rest of the Pod and cast them aside. He struggles to keep them with him, even when it doesn’t seem in his best interest. The bonding in the training dome, and then their shared escape, has bound Ned to the Pod, even if it hasn’t necessarily bound them all to Ned.

Expanding the world

Shifting Horizons builds on the world, and sets a larger context for what appears to have happened to Ned and the other Denounced. There’s a suggestion that there are alternative versions of history, and entirely different perspectives on how the world split into Secular and Non-Secular quadrants. There’s a lot more story to come after the end of Shifting Horizons. I’m looking forward to reading it.

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