Book Review: Shadow Fray (Shadow Fray Book 1) by Bradley Lloyd

Justin joined the Shadow Fray, a system of illegal fighting matches, in order to make enough money to keep his siblings safe, but it's quickly becoming clear that the game is getting more dangerous and Justin is in over his head. Hale is at the top of the rankings, but even he can see things are getting more dangerous; after fighting Justin, he feels strangely drawn to him and can't but feel they might both be better off if they could rely on each other, even though contact among contestants is forbidden and could land them in even more trouble.

Book Review: Shadow Fray (Shadow Fray Book 1) by Bradley Lloyd | reading, books, book reviews, science fiction, dystopian, lgbt
Title: Shadow Fray
Book Number: Book 1
Pages: 284
My Rating: 3.5 Stars
More Info: Goodreads, Amazon, Publisher


*I received an ecopy of this book from the publisher. This has not influenced my review.*

As the blurb suggests, this was a gritty, fight-filled dystopian with a pretty strong focus on the romance. I liked the gritty feel of the world, and I do enjoy romance, so I was glad the book lived up to the blurb in that way.

As for the rest, it wasn’t bad, but it felt like (and was, from what I understand) the author’s first book. There was some showing but also some telling, and it got repetitive at times, especially in Justin’s thoughts. Dialogue sometimes seemed too direct and forward, and characters just knew and perceived too much. There was sometimes too much description of side characters who didn’t seem important. The main characters were a little underdeveloped. Info about the world and backstory didn’t always flow well with the narrative. The world-building was spotty. But none of these issues were extreme, and the only reason I pointed out the first book thing was to say that I think the author has potential to improve; I’d be willing to read more books that he writes.

And I do have to give credit where credit is due and say that the sex scene was one of the most realistic, imperfect—but still sexy—first-time sex scenes I’ve ever read. (Well, technically it wasn’t the first for either, but it was the first time with another man for both.) I, for one, appreciate realistic sex scenes. Hale was kind of a jerk as a top though. He didn’t do anything without consent, but he was impatient and seemed to care more about his pleasure than Justin’s discomfort. I’d love to see him bottom in Book 2 just to see him get his comeuppance since, as he said himself, turnabout’s fair play 😉

I also thought the flirting between the two men was fun. The innuendos were so lame and obvious that I couldn’t help but smile because, I mean, that was realistic too. I’m pretty sure that’s exactly what innuendos sound like—really clever when you’re the one saying them and you’re in the moment flirting with someone, but actually really lame in reality lol.

The scene when they first met made me smile too because Justin reacted the way I imagine a fangirl would react to their favorite celebrity (which was essentially what the meeting was).

So overall, the writing, world-building, and character development were maybe not as good as they could’ve been, but they weren’t bad either, I liked the gritty feel of the world, I appreciated the realistic sex scene, some of the scenes made me smile, and I think the author and story have potential!


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  1. Greg

    Fight Club + post apoc! Actually I’ve never seen Fight Club but it popped into my head as I read this. 🙂 So the dudes fight and fall in love huh? Glad this was a good beginning, all things considered. And yeah realistic/ fun flirting is always fun to read. Hopefully the next one’s even better!

  2. Olivia Roach

    I am glad you could like this book. It sounds like there are the obvious elements of this being a debut novel, but I think those will iron out with time and practice for Bradley Lloyd. I think it’s sweet when characters flirt and if it is adorable enough, it makes me smile too. I am glad the sex scene was realistic, as far as first times go!

  3. Becky @ A Fool's Ingenuity

    Sounds like this was a fairly good book and the author has potential. I love when you can appreciate that about an author. You recognise the flaws in a book but realise that it has the potential to be better. I like the sound of the romance even if the world building was a bit lacking at times and character development needed work.

    You are totally not alone in smiling at a good flirt scene in a book, those are the moments which have me grinning like an idiot when reading. I love the getting together part of a romance almost as much as the romance.

    1. Kristen Burns

      Exactly, there are certain times when you can tell the problems are things that can be improved and that the author has potential. And I’ve read books by other authors in which their first book was just ok or I didn’t like it, but their later books were amazing. And yeah, the romance was fun.

      Gah, me too! That’s why I love slow burns 😀

    1. Kristen Burns

      It was! And yeah, I recall a mention of his husband in the bio. But idk, maybe it’s just because I read so many M/M books, but I’ve come across quite a few books with gay characters written by gay authors. Although yeah, probably more women authors. I’ve never actually counted it up to know for sure.