Dark Southern Sun by Shaun J McLaughlin

Published: 1st December 2014Goodreads badge
 Raiders and Rebels Press
Pages: 284
Format: ebook
Genre: Historical Fiction
★   ★   ★   ★   ★  – 5 Stars

Dark Southern Sun is a story about love, friendship, and honour in the goldfields of old Australia.

 In this sequel to Counter Currents, Ryan washes up on the southern shore of Australia near death in 1845. Rescued by two Wathaurung native children and nursed to health by their parents, his life and theirs are entwined through good and sorrow for the next ten years. Set against the historical backdrop of Australia’s formative years, Ryan witnesses the displacement of the Aboriginal people, and he faces the chaos of the world’s largest alluvial gold rush and the bloodshed of Australia’s only armed uprising.

Throughout, two very different women—one white, one black—tug at his heart as he struggles from penury to prosperity. As he rises in social esteem as an astute businessman and cunning street fighter, Ryan creates two bitter enemies—one white, one black. In time, they set aside their vast racial and emotional hatreds and combine forces. Can Ryan survive their vicious attempt to destroy him and save the good life he has built?

Note: I was provided a copy of this book for review

Across ten years and coinciding with the gold rush, McLaughlin’s story is a beautiful and tragic story about life in Australia and the expansion of one culture and the decline of another. This is not the sole focus of course, at the heart there is a fantastic tale about the power of friendship and the life and successes of a former convict.

While this is a sequel to McLaughlin’s other work Counter Currents, it can also be read as a standalone. Counter Currents tells the story of how Ryan came to be sent to Australia and Van Diemen’s Land but these reasons and his story are adequately covered in this novel to make it understandable.

There are a few varying points of view but Ryan’s is the main viewpoint we are given. Ryan is an admirable character and someone who is proud and honest, and who stands up for what he believes in. His past makes him streetwise and clever but he is also fair and honourable.

It is not just Ryan who is shown to have honourable strengths and weaknesses, each one of McLaughlin’s characters is depicted as their own person; they are complicated, unique, and not just a background figure to Ryan’s life. Having such detailed characters draws you into their lives easily and adds emotion and affection to each of their actions. By staying alongside many of these characters for the ten year period you are able to see them grow and develop, understanding who they are people and what they represent. Such an approach is brilliant on McLaughlin’s part because it makes every event and action that happens hold a lot more meaning and deeper importance than it may not have if the characters were not as understood as much as they are.

The downside of the strong attachments that develop is that you become quite invested in each and every character. With the rejoicing of successes and the mourning of losses there are a lot of unexpected and multiple emotions to experience. Within this story that looks relatively innocent on the surface, lies a deeper and darker one lurking in the background. Given the context and era such a story was expected, but the way McLaughlin uses words and emotions as well as his characters to bring this story to life is marvellous.

One of my favourite discoveries about this story was just how many historical elements had been included and McLaughlin’s attention to detail and creativity for bringing together so many stories, lives, and events is astounding. The Eureka Stockade, Aboriginal culture, and life in 1800s Australia are brought to life, intertwining with Ryan’s story and there are also historical people dotted throughout adding an additional element of reality and history.

With McLaughlin’s writing there is never a moment where he begins to preach or demonise, and yet by capturing the society and conflicts so wonderfully within a brilliant story, it cannot help but highlight the issues of the era. He shows a lot of respect for both cultures and with impressive skill cleverly and effortlessly weaves many aspects of the turmoil of the time into the narrative such as bushrangers, settlement expansion, abuse and cruelty to Aborigines, as well as the legal and social laws of the time.

Knowing this story is based deeply on history and real events it can be quite a depressing and melancholic read. McLaughlin’s story captures beautifully and tragically the takeover of the Aborigine’s land and culture and seeing the opinions expressed by characters towards them is painful. But at the same time it is strangely fascinating and captivating to see it play out before you, knowing this is so close to what happened and how the arrival of white culture eradicated and erased much of the indigenous culture.

McLaughlin is a great storyteller and someone who manages to encapsulate the lives of people in a way that breaks your heart and fills you with admiration, sometimes even at the same time. Dark Southern Sun brings a moment of Australia’s past to life in its glory and its failings and offers up a stunning tale filled with strong friendships and unbreakable bonds making it a story that will stay with you for a long time.


You can purchase Dark Southern Sun via the following


Amazon          Amazon AU

Amazon CA          Amazon UK



Amazon         Createspace

Amazon CA          Amazon UK


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