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Shadowmancer Paperback – 19 Jun 2003

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Product details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Faber and Faber; New edition edition (19 Jun. 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0571220460
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571220465
  • Product Dimensions: 12.6 x 2 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 2.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (155 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 849,148 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Amazon Review

Written to include such elements as magic, witchcraft, superstition, sorcery, history, folklore and smuggling, Shadowmancer has become a book that simply cannot be ignored. Despite such fierce competition as JK Rowling's mighty bestseller Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, The Reverend Graham Taylor's debut children's novel has nevertheless garnered impressive media coverage.

At the heart of his story lies the classic battle between good and evil. On one side Taylor has painted one of the most despicable men possible--Obadiah Demurral, an 18th century vicar who preaches restraint and tolerance to his flock of god-fearing but misguided souls while all the time hiding the fact that he is a shadowmancer--a sorcerer who speaks to the dead--who commands these unfortunates to do his own bidding. For Demurral is intent on seeking to control the ultimate power in the universe. He doesn't want to worship God anymore, he wants to be God. And in the finest traditions of such stories, he will stop at nothing to achieve his dastardly goal.

Lined up against him, however, are some equally inventive good guys. Thomas Barrick, at 13, is the spunky almost-orphan who can intuitively see straight through Demurral's pious act and knows him to be evil to the core. Helping him is feisty tomboy Kate Coglan, Raphah--a mysterious African who has journeyed far to reclaim the precious symbols that Demurral is using for evil purpose, and Jacob Crane, a smuggler with a big grudge against the demented vicar.

The plot might wobble a little in places and the simmering religious overtones might get up a few people's noses, but Taylor's colourful cast is undoubtedly a triumph. The characters are larger than life, engaging, plentiful--and you'll care what happens to them. (For ages 10 and over) --John McLay

Book Description

Shadowmancer is a dark tale of magic and sorcery by G. P. Taylor, the bestselling author of Wormwood and Tersias. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

2.6 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

19 of 19 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 5 Dec. 2003
Format: Paperback
I came to this book with high hopes, but have to say that I was disappointed. The writing is generally leaden (apart from occasionally well-written pieces of 'atmosphere'), the characters are cardboard, the plot is simplistic in the extreme, and there is no real depth of emotion. It has some good moments - the use of the Christian mythology is interesting, though it could be explained better for those not familiar with concepts of seravim etc; the basic idea behind the plot (over-ambitious evil vicar seeks world dominance, not realising he is being used by the devil) is promising. However, the whole work is let down by poor writing and determination to get the writer's Christian viewpoint (eg about tarot cards) across. (I may add that while I loved 'Northern Lights', the first in the 'Dark Materials' trilogy, I found the didacticism of 'The Amber Spyglass', with its obsession about 'dust' and the 'falsehood' of religion equally irritating). As for other characters / story elements - some characters are inserted briefly for no apparent reason, other than to 'lend atmosphere' (eg the witch on the moor, who seems to serve no plotting purpose); the children are whiny and two-dimensional; the constant preachiness of Raphah (love one another) gets annoying, and it's never really clear where the keruvim came from, why God would allow it to have such power as to overthrow himself, etc. All in all, a disappointment.
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26 of 27 people found the following review helpful By M. Teiwes on 14 Nov. 2003
Format: Paperback
Starved of some good fantasy to read, I decided to give this novel a try only to be disappointed, bored-and somewhat confused by the plot. This is not the kind of book to read in installments, as some of the chapters have serious cohesion problems and the strands of sub-plots are woven ad infinitum.
With regards to the characters, the novel presents a typical 'good versus evil' scenario, underlined by overt and complex religious connotations, which for a younger reader will be too complicated to follow at times. Raphah, Thomas and Kate, the main protagonists, are fairly one dimensional, although each have their own personal issues to resolve, which leads them to team up in their quest for an artefact, currently in the clutches of the evil vicar Demurral(a contradiction in terms?). Demurral has terrorised his parish for many years now and people are too afraid to stand up to him. If this character is in any way supposed to equal Vodermot's dimensions in Harry Potter, he certainly fails to strike horror into the reader and his 'army' of semi machines are far too easily avoided. His actions are half hearted, indecisive and far too drawn out. The most interesting character is probably Demurral's somewhat deformed and cunning assistant Beadle, whose desperate attempts to impress, spark some pity.
The only more interesting part about the novel is its setting around the Whitby area, visiting many of the familiar tourist sites, lending them a new history.
I managed to plow through this one but it is unlikely that I would read a second installment. However critical I initially was of Harry Potter, it is at the end of the day a much more enjoyable romp than this far too serious hotchpotch of a novel.
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25 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Dr. M. Lambert on 13 Jan. 2005
Format: Paperback
Just an opinion BUT ...
The hype about this decidedly average children's story from the publishing industry is understandable, in the light of the millions made for them by J. K. Rowling, but the complicity of the so-called critics is more surprising (and eye opening). On the back cover the "Times", "Observer", "Herald", "Daily Telegraph" and "Independent" all breathlessly agree that Shadowmancer is "the biggest event in children's fiction since Harry Potter".
There's no way these critics (or a proficient editor) actually read this book. Shadowmancer is poorly written, with a lack of attention to consistency that is continually jarring (and, yes, children pay attention to detail).
- How many hands does Demurral have as he "... took hold of the golden staff and placed his left hand on the stone fist ..." and "... raised the Keruvim with right hand ..." ?
- How strong is teenage Kate "A small figure leapt out of the darkness at Thomas and Raphah, grabbing them both by the throat and pushing them face down on to the ground" and how do you push two people face DOWN by their throat ?
- How dangerous can the Varrigal be (a "race of (eight feet) warriors") when Thomas, the young boy who was just pinned down by Kate, a teenage girl, is able to effectively trade sword blows with them using a Varrigal sword (from a fallen Varrigal, shot dead by Kate) ?
- Is the mill wheel wood or metal ? "A large wooden mill wheel jutted out into the mill beck ... It rolled on without stopping, the newly cast metal and fresh blue paint churning the water of the beck."
Shadowmancer also explains far too much, far too soon, as if children cannot wait for details to be revealed, or work things our for themselves.
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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 30 July 2004
Format: Paperback
I have to confess that I hadn't realised that this book was supposed to be a children's book. That aside, I anticipated something like H.P Lovecraft meets Philip Pullman from a more mainstream Christian perspective.
How wrong can you be? Unfortunately the religious overtones were about as subtle as a brick, with no attempt to explore deeper philosophical questions, it makes CS Lewis look like Kafka.
There is a story hidden somewhere in there, it just isn't worth getting through the staid prose to find it.
The book also lifts too much from the pulp fantasy and horror genres, and they don't fit well together. One minute it is unnameable horrors from beyond this world, the next magical swords. It would have worked better in the historical setting if real folklore had been drawn upon, rather than these rather crude Harry Potterish charicatures. The supernatural is reduced to the mundane, the horror of black magic is more Dungeons & Dragons.
There is little consistency, the evil Priest starts out practically omipotent and ends up almost comically powerless, while holy places keep out fallen angels, except for the main fallen angel who can enter precisely because he used to be an angel! Milton this ain't, you get a more consistent portrayal of the Fall in Gaiman and Pratchett's 'Good Omens'!
The main characters are poorly developed, and, presumably as a result of the single novel format, shunted around the terrain by a succession of more powerful/wiser/supernatural individuals with very little autonomy.
And finally, it ends on an anti-climax, with nothing really at stake after all.
If you want preternatural horror try H.P. Lovecraft, fantasy and a twisted take on Christianity try Philip Pullman, a straight forward children's fantasy-as-Christian-allegory read CS Lewis. But don't read this.
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