19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on 12 November 2003
I'm getting towards the end of Book 2 (Pattern) at the moment and thought now was a good time to give my thoughts on Shadow.
It's impossible to quantify the scope of the plot in Shadow simply because I still don't know what the plot is. OK I've followed the adventures of Poldarn for a while now but there's something else going on that I'm not yet sure of, although I'm starting to get some ideas.
It's a bit like Agatha Christie in some respects. A mystery, littered with clues and red herrings. During the first book I was wishing I was a single man again, able to sit in the back garden on a Sunday and read through the whole book in one sitting (OK maybe two for one this thick). Because there's so much information thrown at you in such a confused manner that it's hard to take it all in. Mind you, you do end up in the same situation as Poldarn does, having lots of "I'm sure I'm supposed to already know something about this" sort of way.
For anybody enjoying the first book but feeling buried under information, I can tell you that the second is more relaxing. We are told at the end of the first book who Poldarn is (although I'm still suspicious) so the second is more about character development, and about filling in some of the memory lapses. And the feeling of deja vu still keeps coming back.
It's just such a nice change to have a fantasy book with some real mystery to it.
25 of 26 people found the following review helpful
on 2 June 2002
Billed by SFX as "exactly what the fantasy genre needs", this book is a truly excellent example of how a basic fantasy novel concept can be turned into a masterpiece of believable and entertaining fiction. The plot begins with the main character, Poldarn, waking up in a puddle of mud surrounded by corpses, not knowing who he is, where he is, or anything of his past (let alone who the corpses beside him are). An almost cliched beginning these days, but instead of sending Poldarn off on some irrelevantly random quest, and discovering by the end of the book he's actually the heir to the throne of the kingdom currently held under the tyranny of an evil warlord, Parker sends Poldarn bumbling his way through the world in which he finds himself, and having to deal with the problems this presents.
This is done in a completely creditable manner, and although there is indeed a deeper plot afoot in the background, Poldarn only brushes past it from time to time, whilst in other chapters the reader is privy to what dangers could face him in the future (and looking for any subtle clues as to the character's identity). But perhaps the most memorable (and brilliant) aspect of this book is the way in which it has been written. Parker does not go in at all for describing the glorious countryside, or the long back-histories of irrelevant forests and towns, he tells it "like it is", with a nicely cynical narrative which effectively grounds the story into something resembling a true reality you can actually believe exists, rather than having to make an effort to suspend your disbelief. If there is some contrived factor, say, for example, a hay cart just outside Poldarn's window which he has to jump into later to escape some attack, he will remark on it rather than leave the reader groaning at the falsity; more importantly he will look at it and probably mutter to himself cynically about how a god of some sort must be enjoying seeing his hindquarters running into the sunset.
This refreshing tone in a fantasy book, and the light and easy manner in which it is told (contrasting to the more serious moments, thus increasing the intensity of those interludes), lead to "Shadow" being a totally accessible, and massively entertaining read, with many a plot twist and revelation right to the last chapter. Don't expect to have all revealed at the end, either; this is a trilogy, and Parker intends to do it properly, and keep the central factors in the book (Poldarn's loss of memory, coupled with the fragments of worrying story he hears about himself, and the mysterious confidence and panache he possesses with a sword) going to the final instalment. This is no bad thing, as I personally cannot wait for more of the same.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 13 May 2007
Grand claims are often made by a publisher about how original and exciting their new book is. This was justified in the case of Shadow. The book isn't dark or erie. The book is quite simple really, about a man who has amnesia and you piece his former life together.
Theres no magic or elves it's more like an alternate past. The raiders are similiar to the vikings in some ways. The book builds well enough for part 2 of the triology. But after that it's all downhill. Book two is slow and adds little to the plot, except for a few pages really. Book three jams the rest of the plot in the last few pages. This was really annoying and disapointing.
This book deserves four stars anyways I did enjoy it, it was a change from the usual fantasy fare. It did remould the genre but it threw the mould and the cast away. Had I realised the other books were not worth reading I would have given it a miss.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 30 January 2013
I bought this first book on a whim, giving it a try and - if I liked it - planning to buy the following two. I think I had hardly read about 50 pages in this first one when I ordered the rest. I found the way this story is written very entertaining, with lots of humour and sarcasm. The story gripped me and never let me go, leaving me with three new favourite books.
The story is about a guy who wakes up next to a few dozen dead men and doesn't remember who he is. From there he gets on his way to learn more about who he is, or at least who he was in the past. All along the way, he seems to be accompanied by crows, though it is far from clear why at first. As entangled in the story as I was, I began to notice each and every crow or crow-like bird that crossed my path while reading these books and questioned it's reason for being there.
The main character only learns very little about himself at a time and people take advantage of his amnesia in a number of ways, so he - and the reader with him - is often frustrated by the fact that others know more about him than he does and like to keep it that way. This is in no way irritating, but invites you to continue through this quest, hoping there is more just around the bend.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on 16 July 2001
Although I was dazzled by the virtuosity of Parker's 'Fencer' trilogy, I have to say that 'Shadow' marks a step forward. In the 'Fencer' books, Parker displayed a breathtaking talent for description, making you feel that the world being described is as real as our own, and a brilliant style ranging from dry wit to pure poetry. These elements are present in 'Shadow', but allied to a basic concept that's guaranteed to take your breath away. This is an amazing book; it draws you in from the very first page and never lets you go. I can't wait for the sequel!
Turned onto KJ Parkers work by the engineer trilogy of novels I thus went to seek out more work by the same writer. And started their earlier scavenger trilogy as a result.
This gets off to a gripping start by introducing you to a man with no memory. After he wakes up near lots of dead bodies. Dreams and flashbacks give him tantalising bits of information. The world in which he lives is slightly atypical fantasy territory because whilst theres an empire and soldiers with swords and a secret order there's no magic. But there's a little bit of engineering on display.
Taking the name Poldarn the main character falls in with a confidence trickster lady and from there on his exploits begin as he tries to survive and find out who he is. and why so many people seem to recognise him and want him dead.
A harsh and brutal world with uncompromising fights and a couple of bits of strong language this is well written stuff. But this is very much the first volume of a trilogy so after the compelling opening it does seem to meander a bit in the middle. with lots of dream sequences and flashbacks you will need to keep your wits about you whilst reading.
Some good surprises are to be had though as things progress, and some answers as well. Possibly. whilst this reaches a conclusion of sorts by the end of the book there's more than enough loose ends to keep things going.
Not quite as compelling as the engineer trilogy so far but an interesting enough start.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 5 March 2002
Can I just say thank you to KJ Parker for writing this absolutely stunning book. It is one of the most imaginative, colourful books I've read. His scene don't just come to life, they stay with you forever. It's as if Parker lives in his books to bring them to life. Most books you read, you are with them for a short while and then forget what happened (If they aren't memorable) SHADOW will be in your thoughts forever.
From page one, where Poldarn wakes up on the aftermath of the battlefield, this book twists and turns with the age old theme of amnesia. An absolutely superb fantasy book.
However, I was not too pleased with the ending. But, I told myself it's not the ending, more or less the start to the next adventure.
Bring on PATTERN.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 29 January 2002
At first glance this book looks good, then you read the blurb on the back and suddenly you want to sit down in the book store and start reading it(ok i didn't do that i just bought it instead!). I had never heard of K.J.Parker before but the book sold itself anyway.
If you like fantasy/fiction (no elves and orcs but...) then you'll love this it is impossible to put down until you've finished it, and then you'll still be wondering who Poldarn really is!
I haven't read a book that could keep you're attention as well as this since i first read Cryptomicon by N.Stephenson.
An absolute must.
on 4 October 2011
Yet another fantasy? Yes, but this is one of the more intelligent and amusing ones. The central character is another cliché in that he starts out being amnesic but this is well handled and helps the story along, rather than getting in the way. At times, the writing is fairly dense but there are reasons for this in the story. The world depicted is basic and down-to-earth and I feel myself inhabiting it as I read. I am about three-quarters of the way through this first volume of the trilogy and already have the last two books waiting for me!
on 26 August 2009
An enjoyable and refreshing non-magical dark fantasy novel that uses a dispassionate narrator to temper the author's highly satirical take on religious fanaticism and mockery of certain fantasy tropes. The novel is a little slow in places but the mysteries at the heart of the story are strong enough to keep the reader hooked even through the more sluggish parts. Fans of Joe Abercrombie and Richard Morgan in particular might want to consider checking it out.