on April 30, 2002
Burying the Shadow is a book that involves two major storylines intertwining and finally, at the conclusion of the story, colliding. The story is told by two female narrators who alternate their accounts (not switching off every chapter, but very nearly) and together give the novel an narrative style wherein the reader often knows more about what's going on the than do the characters themselves.
The first narrator is Gimel Metetronim, an 'artisan' in the city of Sacramante, part of a vast, fantastic mystical world Storm creates as a stand-in / alternature universe for Earth. The 'artisans' live in an isolated quarter of the city while gaining fame among the human populace, gifting them with their plays, music, poetry, paintings and other creative endeavors. All the artisans' work is sponsored by patron families, who, as it turns out, pay for this artwork with more their money -- they pay with their blood. This is because the artisans don't just *seem* otherworldly, but actually *are*, for they are the eloim, a race of human-seeming but immortal blooddrinkers who came from another world and now live on earth, surviving through a symbiotic relationshp with the patron families.
Although Sacramante is widely renowned for its arts scene, the intimate relationship between the eloim and the human families is a tightly held secret, with family members accepting and welcoming the 'sup' (small drinks that do not kill), eloim using human servants (who'se lives can be extended via bloodsharing), and offerings of willing sacrificial victims, including children. This is the way it has been for centuries, only now, after such a long period of stability, the situation in Sacramante has begun to change, become unbalanced. There is a sickness among the eloim/'artisans,' with a rash of suicides, unheard of among the immortal race. There is debate as to the cause of this sickness, but finally Gimel and her brother (yes, brother) Beth decide they can't wait for answer to fall from the sky or be delivered by the Parzupheim, the body of ancients who govern the eloim world. They go in search of a 'soulscaper,' a highly specialized professional trained to enter the subconscious and repair the soulscape, the inner mind and spirit found in all individuals and tied to both mind and body. (Those readers familiar with the study of archetypes, Carl Jung, dreams, etc., will find this fascinating.)
The second narrative is delivered by of Rayojini the soulscaper, whose story intersects with that of the eloim. As the story begins Rayojini is a human girl, a daughter of a soulscraper, living in the fantastical petrified forest city of Taparak, home of the soulscapers and their art. Through a sacred cememony involving the specialized scrying fumes (needed to enter the subconscious world), Rayojini is initiated into the life of a soulscaper and also introduced to her 'guardian pursuers,' symbolic figures all soulscapers are taught to look for as figures of their conscience and/or overseers in their lives. Little does Rayojini realize that her 'guardian pursuers' are real -- Gimel and Beth!
From here on out, Rayo finds the course of her life straying from the ordinary as she feels the presence of her guardian pursuers, who track her life, waiting for the moment they can use her talents to discover the source of the eloim sickness, which is growing worse as yet further disturbances and mysteries unfold in Sacramante. Finally Rayo begins to make discoveries that lead her on a quest across vast distances, through strange cultures and soulscapes, uncovering a world of which she never dreamed. By the end of the tale she is doubting her own sanity as the world of the eloim collides with that of the human and vast mysteries, hidden even to the eloim themselves, make themselves known.
As a Storm Constantine novel, Burying the Shadow comes complete with the usual Storm trademarks, including a lush narrative, a marvelously complex fantasy world with races, history and geography of its own, and heavy eroticism among members of both/all genders. That said, the book is an interesting contrast to the Grigori triology, which covers some of the same ground (secret immortal race stranded on earth after being expelled from alternate, higher universe of vast powers, with a narrative involving two groups attacking the same problem from different angles) in that it has a much tighter, more focused narrative, offers more in the way of plot and mystery, and is set in a fantastic, rather than contemporary, world. Burying the Shadow is also notable for featuring not one but two strong female protagonists who share the spotlight along with a vast array of supporting characters, including dangerous Avirzah'e, manipulative Keea, a fabulous tribe of nomads, the enigmatic Sammael, and more.
I would strongly recommend this book to those seek a distinctly different reading of the vampire myth as well as those looking to dive into a unique and thrillingly gothic fantasy world.
on October 3, 2003
The plot has already been discussed in comprehensive reviews here, so I won't dissect it too deeply. But I must caution potential readers: this is really NOT a vampire story. Forget that you have read this is a vampire story. To call it such influences potential readers to assign preconceived stereotypical notions usually adhered to vampire stories. So forget about vampires. I do not believe Ms Constantine intended Burying the Shadow to be stuffed into that pigeonhole.
The story is told in the first person, alternating between two well developed and plausible female protagonists, whose exotic (and very different) lives inevitably collide in an unavoidable bitter-sweet climax. The setting is a lush realm populated with various uniquely Storm-esque love-or-hate rogues, fragile beauties (fortunately not too many of those), arcane customs, and fantastic locales. Hidden secrets abound.
Constantine is a superb word weaver; she injects rich detail into her worlds without over doing it. Her characters and settings are ethereal, yet they are entirely believable. Her baroque prose (at its height here) flows from the page in such a way as to suck the reader in, willing or not, so there are moments when the reader forgets they are holding a book in their hands (one of the true marks of successful writing).
I feel I must mention there are, perhaps, elements occurring later on in the book that could have been expanded on or reworked (you may disagree), however on the whole this is eclipsed by the strength of the leads and the overall exuberance of the story. If you want to take a journey far from the tedious agonies of your mundane existence, you will not regret purchasing Burying the Shadow.
So what are you waiting for?
(also very highly recommended: Calenture, by Storm Constantine)
on May 15, 2012
This was my first experience of Storm Constantine's writing, and it will not be my last. I found her prose a little wordy at times, (this is why I have given the book four stars, rather than five) but the effort to read this book was well worth it. This was a good book, with some very vivid characters and descriptions in a deep and fascinating world. The dialogue, in particular, really sparkled for me. The ending was not at all predictable and left me very satisfied. The pacing felt a little slow, but I think that this story was as much about the journey, as it was about the destination. There were many wonderful and interesting locations, and characters to discover throughout the story. I loved all of them. I liked that no one seemed to be "good" or "evil"; everyone was very much a shade of gray. The book was very dark in places (which I liked) but some readers might be put off by that.
I definitely look forwards to reading some of Storm's other work.
on September 23, 2011
Storm Constantine here creates a dark and fantastical other world where ancient thoughts and races combine with a humanity that is part 18th century nobility and part druidic lore; where monsters in your dreams are as real as you or i. Pre-dating True Blood, Anne Rice and all the interminable Team Edward style horromances, Constantine sets her story in a wild new fantasy world where blood suckers and lay people live side by side in a mutually beneficial symbiosis.
Here the ancient race are sponsored by powerful and wealthy families and create lauded works of immaculate art in return for their regular feeds and occasional sacrifices. Families bask in the reflected glow of these works getting richer and enjoy long lives of indulgence and splendour whilst keeping the dread nature of the 'artisans' a secret.
But now, after centuries, something is killing the immortals, and in ways that scare the vampiric caste to their core, forcing some even to the unthinkable: suicide.
In the petrified woods and forests, trainee healer, soulscaper, Rayojini is plagued by visions she doesn't understand. Her new guardians in the soulscape are somehow more than the bestial avatar she was expecting. Her quiet life and the turbulent, garish world of the immortals are entwined and set to collide.
Burying the Shadow is a dark fantasy and whodunit far more-so than it is horror and Constantine has a coolness and depth that easily shakes off any 'pulp' tag. This is a riveting journey that, although it follows the `man-on-a-mission' style of many fantasies, also combines enough otherworldliness and genuine innovation to rise above more populist authors in the genre. Her writing is immaculate, dark and sensual and rich with description and her characters are memorable and unique; it is refreshing to have two strong female leads. The world she builds is new and impressive if not exactly one you'd really want to live in, but genuinely fantastical. All her earlier works create beautifully realised, slightly off-kilter, ethereal worlds to enjoy and the lives of both protagonists here feel strange but real and substantial.
This is a wonderful, mature book full of rich details and a thoroughly intricate plot that takes the reader out of themselves. Certainly recommended for those jaded by the Rice/Meyer cabal that currently dominates, but also for anyone that likes fully constructed fantasy more than a little out of the ordinary.
But please, try not to buy a copy with the red and black headed couple on the cover. Ugh!