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