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Shadowbridge Paperback – January 15, 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
Orphaned 16-year-old Leodora, a talented puppeteer and storyteller, is forced to hide her identity and gender as she travels the spans and tunnels of the ocean-crossing Shadowbridge in Frost's exciting first of a diptych. Stubborn and god-touched, Leodora feels nearly friendless until she meets a youth with similar gifts. Diverus, an enslaved simpleton, is endowed with intelligence and uncanny musical abilities when an unpredictable deity visits his span. When Diverus plays and Leodora performs, their synergy creates magic and brings them instant fame. Only Leodora's mentor, the perpetually drunken Soter, realizes that their brilliance attracts dangerous chaos energy, and he must protect the young pair while keeping long-held secrets about the deaths of Leodora's parents and the dangers of her talent. Frost (Fitcher's Brides) draws richly detailed human characters and embellishes his multilayered stories with intriguing creatures—benevolent sea dragons, trickster foxes, death-eating snakes and capricious gods—that make this fantasy a sparkling gem of mythic invention and wonder.
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For all its painterly beauty, Shadowbridge is a tough-minded novel that confronts some disturbing issues...Frost could be on his way toward a masterpiece. --Gary K. Wolfe -- Locus Looks at Books, Locus Magazine, November 2007
Frost draws richly detailed human characters and embellishes his multilayered stories with intriguing creatures--benevolent sea dragons, trickster foxes, death-eating snakes and capricious gods--that make this fantasy a sparkling gem of mythic invention and wonder. -- Publisher's Weekly, October 22, 2007
[F]illed with the brilliant details of Frost's masterful world building--containing all manner of fantastic story. -- Regina Schroeder -- Booklist, December 1, 2007 (starred review)
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The main plot of this book focuses on a puppeteer as she seeks to develop her skills at telling stories about the world. How she acquires her stories and how she seeks to tell them to people. There are a couple sub plots as well, such as; a young simple man who lives in obscurity is given a gift by the gods, a secret that seeks to disrupt the traveling group, and lastly the multitude of stories scattered throughout the realm and how they interweave with everything. Beyond the first two plot points this book comes across as a little shallow on the plot side of things. Granted, at only 250 pages there is only so much that can be included. Yet, aside from a few things this book, to me, felt as it was more character/world building than anything else. We are introduced to the world and how it came to be, from stories of course. However, just when the story seems to be picking up speed and developing itself... it ends. Just like that. The ending just appears. While I will not argue the fact that Mr. Frost has created a fantastic and rich world full of history, I would have liked to have seen that same amount of detail throughout the book in all aspects.
The characters in this book are one of the redeeming qualities. There is quite a bit of development for the main two characters, Leodora and Diverus. Some development for the supporting member of the troupe Soter, but not nearly to the same level as the other two. A couple things I appreciated about the characters were that all their actions seemed natural and not forced in the least. The dialogue was also well done. Mr. Frost was able to give all the characters their own unique voice, including those characters that only appear in one or two scenes. As I said before, the amount of character development that went into the characters was also very good - especially considering how few pages this book truly is. I also enjoyed Leodora as she was seeking out stories and the things she was willing to do for those stories. It added a certain depth to the character and a truthfulness and genuineness to the situations she was in.
A couple minor criticisms about this novel:
1 - The book, as it is, seems incomplete. Being that it is part of a duology, I wonder if the story would not have been better served being combined into one book. The way the book ends, could leave the reader feeling cheated and wondering what happened.
2 - The overall plot, while interesting, seemed shallow. With the quality of writing in this book I expected much more plot development. As it stands Shadowbridge almost feels like a 250 page prologue.
Some things I liked about this novel:
1 - I really enjoyed the setting. It proves the fact that there are still new ideas to be had in the fantasy genre, if only people put in a little creative energy.
2 - I really liked the aspect of how the stories in the book, the tales that are told, interweave with the actual story. They add a depth to the world that is hard to replicate with one novel.
3 - Mr. Frost's prose is a nice fluid style. It is easy to read, but provides a great amount of detail. I don't want to call the prose simple, because I feel that would give it a negative connotation. But in its simplicity, there is elegance. One that I enjoyed reading.
When all is said and done, I did enjoy the novel. However, if you are considering reading it, I would highly recommend having the second book handy so you don't suffer from the immediate letdown of the ending. I have never read any of Mr. Frost's previous work, but based on this novel, I will certainly be checking some out. I will at least be reading the second book of this series. I think there is something in this book for every fantasy fan. Although, if you are looking for a typical hack-n-slash style novel you may have to look somewhere else. There is none of that present in this novel. New fans of the genre will enjoy this as much as well read fans of the genre. I will most likely be recommending this book to people in the future, once I see how the story ends of course.
I try to avoid series but this one has me intrigued.
I will follow it along and see where it goes.
The stories that the main character performs are ok, but the global plot moves forward with a snails pace, and appears to be very straightforward. I will not buy the next book in the series.
And I'm still sick of it, I'm afraid. But Shadowbridge is better than its plot tropes. Frost has a very nice knack with prose and the book drew me in despite my first reaction.
I had a lot of fun trainspotting the influences. (Something of Anne McCaffrey, some Tanith Lee for sure, Michael Swanwick?) But that doesn't mean that it feels like a patchwork, it didn't-- it just made it fun to read.
Many folks have noted how the broken plot annoyed them. I have to say that I wasn't terribly bothered, even if I generally prefer longer books. I'm looking forward to reading the next installment.