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Shadowmancer (Shadowmancer, Bk 1) Paperback – May 9, 2005
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An apocalyptic battle between good and evil is vigorously, violently fought in British author G.P. Taylor's suspenseful, action-packed fantasy. The story, set in the 1700s on the Yorkshire coastline, revolves around Vicar Obadiah Demurral, a corrupt-but-inept, dead-conjuring "shadowmancer" who desires to control the universe by overthrowing God, or Riathamus. When two hard-luck near-orphans, (13-year-old Thomas Barrick, a bitter enemy of Demurral, and his troubled friend Kate Coglund) band together with a young African stranger named Raphah, they spend the rest of the book trying to stop the wicked Vicar as if their very souls are at stake...they are. Along the way, the three youths meet an enormous cast of friends and foes, some agents of Riathamus, others of Satan (Pyratheon), and some godless (but not for long) smugglers like Jacob Crane.
Readers who love fanciful storybook characters will find mermaidlike Seloth, smelly hobs, leg-dragging servants, goodhearted whores, and benevolent boggles. Age-old superstitions abound, though old magic and witchcraft are clearly denounced here as the work of the devil. Indeed, the author, an English vicar himself, tells a very Christian story and his often deliciously dramatic adventure lapses into stiffly presented glowing-halo Touched by an Angel moments(readers will be lured into the Enchanted Forest, but tricked into Sunday school). Nonetheless, Shadowmancer, the first of a series, is a pageturner bursting with magic and myth, and will appeal to fantasy lovers who don't mind the Bible mixed in with their boggles. (Ages 11 and older) --Karin Snelson --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From School Library Journal
Grade 7 Up-The atmospheric Yorkshire coast is the setting for this good versus evil fantasy. Local vicar Obadiah Demurral desires the power to command God. To do this, he needs an angelic figurine called the Keruvim and its human equivalent. As he uses his considerable powers to acquire the Keruvim, a young man named Raphah comes seeking an object stolen from his African kingdom. It is soon obvious that Demurral's angel and Raphah's stolen prize are one and the same. Once Demurral has it and Raphah under his control, he believes he will be master of the universe. Thomas and Kate, two local children, are inadvertently drawn into the struggle. Soon their lives are in jeopardy. The plot twists and turns, revealing that Demurral is not the ultimate evil but merely a tool in the hands of a fallen angel. The book is rich with detailed descriptions that sometimes threaten to overwhelm the story. There are a number of fantastic creatures warring on the side of evil, but at bottom this is a seriously religious story clothed in the trappings of high fantasy. Biblical allusions abound, sometimes bordering on direct quotes. The theme of the triumph of love and light over pure evil reflects the Christian gospel message, with overtones from Paradise Lost. Thomas has dreams or visions of someone who can only be Jesus. Raphah heals a deaf boy and casts out demons. He is also brought back from death. Whether teen readers will understand all this is a matter of conjecture.-Bruce Anne Shook, Mendenhall Middle School, Greensboro, NC
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
Like many a fantasy villain, Obadiah Demurral wants to play God, and the corrupt vicar does so by trafficking with evil powers -- all-out sorcery and devil-worship. Enter Raphah, a mysterious man from Africa who is after a mystery amulet that will be incredibly destructive if evil people get their hands on it. (Wow, that's original)
Are our heroes going to let Demurral and the forces of evil win? Of course not. Troubled teen Thomas Barrick (who has quasi-religious visions) and his pal Kate team up with Raphah to somehow keep Demurral from becoming king of the universe with the help of that amulet. But can our heroes win out against Pyratheon (read: the devil)?
Original fantasy is hard to come by, and "Shadowmancer" doesn't improve the situation. It's your basic good vs. evil-forces-stirring-up-Armageddon story, with a heavy layer of religious allegory. Taylor manages to dredge up a few interesting mythical creatures, and a solid Yorkshire setting, but they're drowned out by the trite writing.
No way is religious fantasy a bad thing in itself -- after all, C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien rooted their stories partly in religion. But Taylor's brand of Christianity is very watered-down, very generic, very politically-correct and VERY preachy. He lays this bland religious goo on so thickly that it's hard to read without feeling twitchy and uncomfortable. "Riathamus [God] stands at the door of your life and knocks. If you hear his call and answer him he will share your life and live with you always," Raphah announces. It's like he's reading from a pamphlet.
Nor can you expect much in the way of character development; everyone is a symbol rather than a person. Demurral is a cackling, mustache-twirling devil-worshiper. Saintly Raphah is as dull as the proverbial ditchwater, and so are the plucky kids who accompany him. There are no shades of grey here. A flawed person either is evil, or he's just waiting to be redeemed.
"Shadowmancer" is packaged as a thrilling dark fantasy for kids. But under the skin is a lame religious thriller with tepid writing and bland characters.
Well, Shadowmancer is not all bad (perhaps it isn't a good omen that my discussion of the book starts with this phrase...). The plot is perfectly serviceable if not very original. I don't demand an original plot in every fantasy; after all, how many different variations on coming of age and escaping the evil bad guy can there be? The author writes with a sense of urgency, and in spite of everything, there were parts of the story in which I found myself quickly turning pages to find out what came next. Unfortunately, that was only a few portions of the story, and much of the story left me yawning.
The characters, on which so much rests, are only rough outlines of real people. The children, (even their names are utterly forgettable except for Raphah)are presented to us with a fair amount of backstory disguised as personal ruminations, and that is about that. There is nothing wrong with backstory. I love backstory. I just don't like having it spoonfed to me in large chunks of exposition...let me live it, let me learn it slowly and make it make me say, "Oh! That explains why this person is like this...". The children are likeable, but only because they are presented as innocents caught up in the story, not because they are in particular very interesting. Raphah, the most fully drawn character in the book, is also quite clumsy. Without giving away anything that happens, the exploration of his powers was done in an utterly dull fashion. There was a rather obvious task for him to complete in the mines, and guess what? He did it. Yippee. Once more, he is perfectly serviceable, but not exciting.
The villain is my biggest complaint. I can see him cracking his fingers and twirling his moustache with all the vigor of a marionette on a string (have you ever made a marionette twirl it's moustache believeably? Neither have I, nor, for that matter, has the author). He is bad, mean, and just plain vicious. Fine...I mean, he is the villain and all. But he isn't exciting. Just mean. While it is true that mean people suck, that does not mean that mean people automatically can provide the motivation for a great story.
The universe in which this story takes place is a muddled mess of English customs and myths from a variety of time periods, with a little hocus pocus mumbo jumbo thrown in for (good?) measure. It is ok, but once more lacks a certain originality, and I wonder how fully the author realized the world in his mind beore committing it to paper. I could be wrong, but I suspect that it was invented somewhat as he went.
Now, on for the spiritual discussion. I was very excited about seeing a Christian point of view put forth in the book. And to his credit, the author did so. Applied with a hammer, true, but it is better than filling the book with new age mumbo jumbo and calling it Christian. There is nothing subtle about the Christianity here...it is just a little more deft than the spirituality given in the "Left Behind" series. For the most part, the author does a lovely job of showing how good God is, how forgiving, how loving, and how wonderful. That was a pleasure. So, overall, I would have loved to seen a little more depth and complexity to the spiritual aspects of the story, but I guess you can't have everything.
To whom would I recommend this book? Well, it is probably fine for a 10-12 year old who isn't particular about having clumsy writing and an obvious plot. I suspect that this age group would enjoy it well enough. Adults looking for a little magic with their Christianity but who demand something more than the bare minimum from their story should probably look elsewhere. It is pretty safe for Christian families to allow their kids to read, but families who are very particular about their theology should probably vet the book first, and then discuss the role of Raphah with their kids. It would make a very good jumping off point for spiritual discussions for your pre-teen kids, and that is not a bad thing.
I wanted to love this book. I wanted to recommend it to everyone. I wanted it to be charming. I guess what I really wanted was C.S. Lewis. Well, I already have him, and ultimately, I should have just re-read "The Voyage of the Dawn Treader" and spent a little time with Aslan. Now *there* is a beautiful picture of Jesus.
So instead of this book, I might suggest the Chronicles of Narnia, or even Pilgrims Progress in either the original or in any one of several excellent re-workings of the tale for younger kids. These do Christianity and wonder with equal ability. Or just read Harry with your kids...discuss which portions of the story are only fantasy and not anything that would be acceptable in real life. Learn from Harry's mistakes. Learn from the things he does well. Harry is not evil, but his world is not our world. Remember that it is a fantasy world, set with different rules completely than our rules, and discuss the how spiritual reality differs from Harry's world. Hope this helps.
I give this book two stars for the good intentions. I had hoped it was on the same literary level as Harry Potter with the addition of a clearly defined Christian theme. The Christian theme is here, but the literary workmanship of a Rowling or a Tolkien is painfully absent. Obviously, I was disappointed.