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Shadowland Mass Market Paperback – March 4, 2003
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First setting: an all-male prep school in Arizona, where two sensitive freshmen form a bond based on their interest in magic tricks. Second setting: the labyrinthine house of a weird magician uncle in New England, where the two boys spend a memorable summer being trained in the art of illusion. Or is it real magic? Third setting: an alternate world where dark forces are at play--forces that first show up at the school, but intensify their power the summer. Shadowland is a superb, under-recognized, early novel from a master of literary terror. Get it while it's back in print! --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
“Gripping.”—The Memphis Commercial Appeal
“Savor the novel to the fullest.”—Dayton Daily News
“You will be transported.”—Houston Chronicle
“A masterpiece.”—Richmond News-Leader
“A blend of…the old horrors that crouch in the dark corners of the adult mind.”—John Lutz, author of Jericho Man
“I thought it was creepy from page one. I loved it.”—Stephen King
Top Customer Reviews
Del's uncle is a half-crazy, alcoholic, retired magician. He sets about teaching the boys magic. His magic, though, consists of more than tricking the eye with a slight of hand. At Shadowland, nothing is as it seems. An hour can feel like all day. The sun can set at 11am. You can find yourself suddenly half-way across a continent, just to find that you haven't moved from your spot at all. There are others living at Shadowland that are unseen, and whose existence is denied. There are rules that are made in the hopes of being broken. As Del's uncle spends the summer recounting his life, in all it's horror, to the boys Tom realizes that the horror is only starting. As he sees things that can't be real, but are, and he sees the immediate horrors being committed at Shadowland, Tom realizes that he has to leave, and Del must come with him. Unfortunately, for Tom and Del, Uncle Collins has realized something about Tom that even Tom doesn't yet know - and he wants it for himself.
In Shadowland, Peter Straub has written a brilliant piece of fiction. There are plots, subplots, and subplots within those. Nothing in this book is without purpose to the story. Straub's writing, which has a definite British bent, despite the story being set in the United States, is very literary and rich. More complex than Stephen King, Straub is still very readable, especially to those who like a thicker story. No one who enjoys literary horror will be disappointed for having read this book.
This is an extraordinary book, something that might come from Walt Disney, if Disney was capable of coming up with anything either adult or horrific. It is best described as a nightmarish fairy-tale, full of magic - but mostly from the dark side.
As is typical of Straub, the story is constructed in convoluted and highly complicated form, all of which builds nicely to the conclusion of the main story at hand. The action begins in an Arizona boys' prep school, moves to an isolated mansion in Vermont, and includes numerous stories of Collins' highly checkered past throughout war-torn Europe, each tale of which increasingly fuels a mounting sense of dread - for Coleman Collins is much more than he seems; much more, and much worse.
I'm amazed no one ever attempted to make a movie of Shadowland, for it is highly cinematic in style. It isn't as good as Straub's preceding masterpiece, Ghost Story, but is still a worthy successor and a great, involving read. The characters are well-realized, the action intriguing, and the atmosphere and actual magic of the piece are striking.
I return to this book at Christmas when the weather looks bleak. As a coming of age novel, it speaks more clearly to me than some classics I could name.
The first pages confuse. Mr. Straub likes to spin you around before telling you a story. It breaks you out of your world and preps you for his. I'm lucky to find such a great story teller.