Valley of the Shadow by T.H. Gerety

Valley of the Shadow by T.H. Gerety
Publisher: Rogue Phoenix Press
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (88 pages)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 2.5 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Avid naturalist, hunter and birder, Mr. Gerety has constructed a tale of two people who meet briefly then are reunited after death in a place and time other than the one they have always known. In this unfamiliar and pristine environment, his characters find each other, leaving behind their years of professional education and training as well as a lifetime of modern urban assumptions to assume lives of hunters, nomads, lovers and parents in a world emptied of all other people.

As Michael and Val are about to learn, surviving is easier than thriving.

The descriptions of the food made my mouth water. They were written so clearly that I could almost taste the simple, delicious meals that the characters made based on what they’d found to eat each day. These scenes were my favourite ones because they made me so hungry at times!

I was quite puzzled by Val and Michael’s reaction to their new surroundings. They both adjusted to it extremely quickly for reasons that I was never able to determine. This is the exact opposite of how I’d expect two ordinary adults to respond to waking up injured in the middle of the wilderness with no supplies and no way to signal for outside help. I would have also really liked to know why they both knew how to do things like knapping flint, tracking prey, curing animal hides, and figuring out which wild plants are safe to eat. These are all uncommon hobbies for the twenty-first century, so it was surprising to have two characters who were both so skilled at all of them.

The dialogue often made me smile. Val and Michael found ways to tease each other over small things. Writing them this way made their romance more relatable because those sections showed me how well these characters work together. It was also a lot of fun to see what kinds of things they’d come up with next to joke about.

Many words and phrases were repeated over and over again in this story. Sometimes several sentences in the same paragraph would all begin with the same word. At times this made it difficult to keep my place while I was reading because it was so easy to lose my place and accidentally return to a paragraph I’d already completed.

One of the things I liked the most about the ending was how well it blended in with everything that had happened before. While I would have preferred more concrete answers to certain questions I had about the characters and what had happened to them, I appreciated the fact that the narrative stayed true to the author’s style. This section repeated the same themes that had been introduced in the beginning, and that’s a good thing.

There was a great deal of telling instead of showing in this tale. The characters faced circumstances that should have brought a lot of tension and anticipation to the plot. It was difficult to immerse myself into those scenes, though, due to how much distance the narrator left between what was happening and how those events were communicated to the reader. It felt like I was hearing a second or third-hand account of these sections instead of imagining them for myself.

This was a huge surprise for me because I was so enamoured with the blurb when I first stumbled across it. I’m a lifelong fan of books set among hunter-gatherers and other groups who live off of the land. The idea of two contemporary characters ending up in this kind of lifestyle made me feel even more excited to give it a try. This is the kind of premise that snags my attention immediately. The idea of trading all of today’s technology and luxuries for a chance to spend the rest of one’s life sleeping under an unpolluted sky is so fascinating.

I’d recommend Valley of the Shadow to anyone who is really interested in stories about living off the land.

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