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19 of 22 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Fine Read
I am an atheist, not a Christian, however I'm not going to judge the book on Taylor's theological messages. I've seen some of the criticism in the other amazon reviews, much of which is just; however, that does not mean it is a bad read. I throughly enjoyed reading this book - it had a shaky start, but painted a gripping picture of a sinister and mysterious world with...
Published on 21 July 2006 by M. Slater

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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Seemed promising, but proved disappointing
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...
Published on 5 Dec. 2003


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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Seemed promising, but proved disappointing, 5 Dec. 2003
By A Customer
This review is from: Shadowmancer (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
2.0 out of 5 stars Super hype-super fall, 14 Nov. 2003
By 
This review is from: Shadowmancer (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
1.0 out of 5 stars NOT the biggest event since Harry Potter (by a long way), 13 Jan. 2005
By 
Dr. M. Lambert (Palo Alto, CA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Shadowmancer (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.
I couldn't finish the book (rare) but at the end of the day Shadowmancer has lots of action and the plot lurches on at a fast pace. When I consider all the wonderful children's titles out there, though, I think it's unfair to hype this as anything like a classic. I'd be interested to see feedback from children, as opposed to disappointed adults.
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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Oh dear God!, 30 July 2004
By A Customer
This review is from: Shadowmancer (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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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Don't waste your time., 2 May 2004
By A Customer
This review is from: Shadowmancer (Paperback)
It really amazes me that there is so much hype surrounding this book and that it has become so hugely popular. Surely it must be a great book to garner such acclaim? Actually, no it's not. In short, Shadowmancer is awful.
What's wrong with it? Take your pick. The characters are shallow and uninspiring. There is no depth to them or even any real development. The prose is terrible; it really comes as no surprise that G.P. Taylor was forced to self-publish this book - after all the agency he paid to read it said it was the worst thing they had ever read. You'd better believe it, it really is that bad. Sentences are disjointed, descriptions hopelessly flat. Realism makes way for obvious political correctness. While it is admirable to include a black character, how many black people lived in Yorkshire in the time period that this book is set in? None.
There is no tension, no suspense. It quickly becomes a real struggle to care about the characters or the story, or even turn the page. The obvious Christian allegory is also irritating, simply in that it is far too obvious.
In short, this is a terrible book. Don't believe the hype, and more importantly don't waste your money.
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars a book that should stay in the shadows!, 18 May 2004
By A Customer
This review is from: Shadowmancer (Paperback)
Like others, i heard the hype, and being a fan of Philip Pullman, mistakingly thought that this might be in a similar vein. I could not have been more wrong. It took a feat of endurance not to give up half-way through, and, on getting to the end i wished i had given up much sooner.
I hate to be so negative, but there was so much wrong with this: the plot dragged; the writing was poor (sentences were badly constructed - where was the editor?); and the allegory, well it was too obvious, too cumbersome, and, in the end, just annoying and frustrating. CS Lewis it ain't. A disappointing read after the hype. If you haven't read Pullman then go with him, if you have, you can only be disappointed with this.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars a mere shadow of the true magic, 13 Jun. 2004
By A Customer
This review is from: Shadowmancer (Paperback)
I was very disappointed by this book. Overall I felt this was a poor novel piggybacking on the Harry Potter phenomenon. There are plot holes, the writing is pedestrian, the magic is based on a mishmash of sources with no attempt at an underlying logic, there are characters who should be in a different book because their reason for existence doesn't mesh with this book, and there's a lot of badly thought out 'detail' which doesn't ring true at all. And the Christian evangelism would play better if its intention was honestly acknowledged. I won't be buying the sequel, I'm afraid.
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31 of 33 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars J.K. ... I mean G.P. - Tayor and the Hype That Goes With It, 20 Nov. 2003
By A Customer
This review is from: Shadowmancer (Paperback)
I've never held to the view that teen's books are just for teens. I still go back and read Garner, Joy Chant, Rosemary Sutcliff etc - the books I grew up with. And so I still browse over that section of any book store and have been happy to have found some grand surprises over that way - Pullman of course, but others too: Phillip Reeve's 'Mortal Engines' and 'Predator's Gold', Chris Wooding's 'Haunting of Alaizabel Cray' and Garth Nix's Abhorsen trilogy spring to mind.
But for every hit there are bound to be misses. I should have known from the rather non-indicative reviews on the back of 'Shadowmancer' that this was not a book to be trusted. Two quotes do nothing but describe the book as an event. Another is a simple description of what the book is about. In fact the latter - "a magical tale of vicars and witches" - is the title of an interview with Taylor - not a review at all. One of the other quotes leaves off half way through - a very cynical manoeuvre - the full quote being: "The adventure unfolds at a vivid and breathless pace, but the religious symbolism is rather too fundamental and proscriptive for comfort."
Inotherwords the hype is pretty much manufactured from a publisher looking for not just a new Harry Potter like series (they always have to be series), but a J.K Rowling (and they always have to only use the initials of their first two names, like G.P. Taylor): an author who has a good story to back them up.
It would be churlish to belabour the religious point as it is well-covered elsewhere, but what the hell. This is a very thinly veiled pro-Christian book. It is not allegorical and magical like C.S. Lewis, nor is it just like any other fantasy book that features battles between good and evil: although that is a slight remark - many fantasy books do deal with good and evil. Yet the worst do so like this book, blandly and simplistically, while the best know that human nature is a good deal more complex. Even if Taylor referring to God with a made up name is not enough to distance this book from the tract it is.
Of course Christian-based books are not Bad Things, but this book paints it so darn obviously that it is completely absent of any suspense, any ambiguity, any sense of Greyness. Is there ever any doubt that Good will eventually Triumph? Taylor is missing one of the main points of Pullman's trilogy - this sort of treatment of Christianity is colourless. The language is straight out of the worst type of evangelical pamphlets, pompous and overused: I will be with you always even to the end of time ... Let the one who can bring peace heal your life ... See he is coming, the bright morning star shines upon the earth.
Even an agnostic like me knows that there is a richness of language in the Bible, a richness of symbolism that so much literature has since simplified into Black and White. The Bible - and, really, any good author worth their salt - knows that Good and Evil are not simple concepts. To make them so is not instructive in any way.
And as to originality - well many fantasy authors have modelled their demonic entities on Tolkien's Ringwraiths and Taylor is no exception. But there are faint echoes of other Tolkien-esque figures - the Miller and his family are a little Tom Bombadil-like, even in their placing in the novel, for instance. Moreover there are any number of fantasy works that better explore the world of British folklore than this - from Robert Holdstock's sophisticated and adult 'Mythago Wood' to Peter Beagle's 'Tamsin'.
There are far, far more finely written fantasy works for teenagers than this one. Don't believe the publisher's hype.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Philip Pullman it ain't, 17 Sept. 2003
By A Customer
This review is from: Shadowmancer (Paperback)
I had extremely high hopes for this book - too high, as it turned out. The attractive jacket (don't judge a book by its cover) featured several glowing reviews from the Times, the Guardian and the Observer, one of which described 'Shadowmancer' as 'the most important phenomenon in children's literature since Harry Potter'. Faber and Faber are not renowned for publishing pedestrians.
Those high hopes of mine, though, sadly did not survive the opening lines. Perhaps it's because we've seen so much extraordinary writing in children's literature recently, but every thread in Taylor's clumsy weave has already been treated, and treated really well, in one, if not several, seriously good books. Historical fiction with real-life details, smells and textures? Kevin Crossley-Holland's 'Seeing Stone' trilogy is sophisticated and exciting, and the overlaid and interwoven Arthurian legend contributes enthralling extra dimensions to the tightly-plotted story of the young protagonist. The undeniably fascinating world of white magic and black sorcery, Dark side and the Light? Even without mentioning J.K. Rowling, there are innumerable giants in this field - try Susan Cooper's 'Dark is Rising' sequence, or Diana Wynne Jones' 'Howl's Moving Castle' or her latest, satisfyingly hefty book, 'The Merlin Conspiracy'. Iconoclastic and daring attempts to deal with the touchy subject of religion in a book written for children, the reclamation and renewal of the fraught symbols of Christian faith? Philip Pullman is a hard act to follow, and as far as I'm concerned, mentioning 'Shadowmancer' in the same breath as the 'His Dark Materials' trilogy is little short of blasphemous.
Taylor's style incorporates one idea in each very short sentence. No commas. The occasional dash. Semi-colons? Don't make me laugh.
The effect of this, besides the obvious jerkiness and lack of flow and poetry, is oddly patronising, seeming to imply that long sentences will be too much for child readers - I tried to remember the last time I had encountered such a style, and then I realised.
'Peter throws the ball. See Spot run. See Jane run.'
His characters are almost entirely two-dimensional (although I did enjoy tomboy Kate's giving in to anger - 'It was her favourite emotion'), and a narrative voice hovers at the reader's ear to whisper irritating and obvious moral judgments on the villains.
The book's worst fault, however, is its clumsiness. Its involved plot requires a firm authorial hand and a measure of self-discipline in which Taylor is quite evidently lacking (again, compare Wynne Jones, who constructs the most convoluted of plots without any loss of clarity or interest). The reader loses interest, loses her place on the page, loses the plot. And cannot be bothered to reacquire it.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Poorly written, 1 Oct. 2004
This review is from: Shadowmancer (Paperback)
Perhaps this is where the bandwagon ends. Shadowmancer is poorly written - if a person is described as trembling, you don't need to also state that he's scared. We have a 13-year-old boy who's never been out of Whitby talking in grand terms about threats to the world as if he's reading from a Hollywood B-movie script, and making assumptions about the evil vicar's plans based on no apparent evidence.
In short, there is too much redundant description and wooden dialogue. But he clearly knows his folklore and has done his research into the era and the location. The story itself could be a good one - had the writer had a decent editor. Instead, in the dash to capitalise on Potter fans, this seems to have been rushed out.
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Shadowmancer
Shadowmancer by G.P. Taylor (Paperback - 19 Jun. 2003)
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