19 of 22 people found the following review helpful
A Fine Read,
This review is from: Shadowmancer (Paperback)
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 great but unknown events unfolding, and the characters dangerously and unwittingly suspended in the midst of all this turmoil. As the book progresses, they find themselves uncovering the terrible and mistaken plans of greedy Demurral, and increasingly on the run from enemies, both visible and invisible. You find yourself, like the characters, having to question whether you can trust each new person they encounter. The pace and intrigue of the book is undeniably there.
The book reaches a climatic and worrying culminating event, but then ends unfinished. The book feels as though there is more story to tell - perhaps there is a sequel? That's what I came on to amazon to look for. But Shadowmancer itself, despite leading you through a riviting build up, seems to have no proper conclusion. You think the worst is happening - but then something it becomes apparent something has gone wrong with it - so it hasn't happened - but something has - quite what is unclear. And the characters then still move on, still under chase. Neither side has 'won' as such, and as to what difference has actually been made to their world after all of that is hazy to say the least. So, either it should have a sequel, because the ending is well set up for one, or, if it doesn't have a sequel, the ending really isn't one.
As someone pointed out, a number of plot ideas are set up, but not returned to. Beadle's alcoholism. Jacob's vow to free the Azimuth. The Boggles. Perhaps if theses were explored in a sequel, it would be fine, but as it stands, they are untied ends. Also, how Demurral fell to his greedy and megalomaniac status in the first place is not covered greatly, nor is the history of Pyraethron and how the Glashan came to be.
The way the book's religious theme is presented is interesting. Raphah has been described as dull and preachy - but I found him to be neither. Of course I didn't agree with what he was saying, but just accepting it as part of the fiction - as though it was something true in their world. And in that context, Raphah was charismatic, powerful, commanding, yet modest, wise, and subtle. The presentation of good and evil, a.k.a God and the Devil, in terms of Riathamus and Pyraethron I found quite interesting too. The idea of Riathamus, when called upon with faith, actually physically being able to do something to help you, was intriguing, as was Riathamus actually appearing as a person, in flesh. The conventional churches in the book are shunned by Raphah, saying that they have corrupted Riathamus' message with the words of man, and that they are only interested in the gold they take. It's as though Taylor is presenting the idea that there is God, but not in the Christian sense - it is rather much more simple - there is no Son of God, no Mother Mary, no mention of any required relgious text, building, cermonies, etc - just simple faith in Riathamus. Riathamus is portrayed implicitly as God, but not directly. Pyrathron's Devil position is similarly implicit - the idea of him and the Glashan being fallen Seruvim (angels?) who fought in a battle and were sealed with the powerful Keruvim relics seems also to be distinctly unchristian - it is as though Taylor is presenting a different, fictional monotheisic relgion of his own invention in place of Christianity. Whether there is any real world use of the terms "Riathamus" and "Pyraethron" I don't know - it would be interesting to find out. Interestingly, though Pyraethron says he is known by many names (as is the Devil, or Satan, etc), and that he is behind and representative of any worship or ritual not concerning Riathamus (heresy anyone?), he says that his preferred name is Pyraethron because that is the name his father gave him. The Devil has a father? My knowledge of Christianity is rudimentary, but that doesn't sound to be a Christian belief to me. His father's identity is another issue the book doesn't explore, as is the idea that the Seruvim/Glashan even have Fathers (or is Riathamus the Father?). The notion that God (Riathamus) can be killed also doesn't seem Christian. This apparent lack of direct Christian preaching I find intriguing, in a book coming from a vicar. It makes the book feel less obvious, more unexpected, and as though there is more to explore.
Putting that detailed analysis and those few critisms aside, I would say that the book is a fine and somewhat gripping read (though not in Brown, Pullman, or Rowling territory), well worth picking up, whether you're Christian or not.