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Sunday, March 18, 2007

Book Review: Shadowfall by James Clemens

This is by far one of the best fantasy novels I have read in a long time. Clemens' writing style is exceptionally strong and he proves that having multiple viewpoints can be worked successfully. One of the things that makes it work is the length. There is plenty of time to establish who the characters are, where they are from, their histories, etc. I found myself, especially towards the end, on the edge of my seat. Unlike other fantasy novels--Tower of Shadows being a prime example--Clemens doesn't show you the viewpoint from the villians. You don't know at any point who really is the bad guy. And because you aren't given that viewpoint the twists and turns come as an even greater surprise.
Synopsis (my version): Tyler is a fallen knight in the world of Myrillia where knights serve the many gods who live among man on the earth. He has had everything stripped from him: his future wife, his health, his pride and prestige. Then one night he witnesses the slaying of a god, something that is supposed to be impossible. When he goes to the dying god she blesses him with her own grace (magic basically) and he is immediately accused of being a godslayer. He finds that he has to uncover a vast conspiracy to clear his name and prove that despite a great daemon--left by the dying god--now held within his flesh, he is not a godslayer.Dart is a girl studying to be Handmaiden for whichever god will take her. There is something about her that nobody really knows about. She has an 'imaginary' beast friend who not really imaginary at all, but a constant companion to her. She too gets sucked up into the conspiracy working to destroy the foundations of Myrillia.
Kathryn is a Shadowknight (one of the knights that serves the gods). She also was formerly betrothed to Tylar. But news that he still lives and that he may be coming to kill he brings her into a struggle with discovering who is really trying to tear down Myrillia from the ground up. Is it a group of dissenters known as the Fiery Cross? Or someone else? Could it be Tylar?

You can't go wrong with this book. The characters are exceptional and drawn so well that you truly get an idea of who they are. The action is described perfectly, drawing you in. I didn't even notice that the book had many common cliches until the end, which immediately tells me that Clemen's writes in such a way that even common fantasy themes seem new. The world he has created--Myrillia--is fantastic. His system of gods and magic (called Grade, like God's Grace) is elaborate and powerful. You can easily grasp the limitations of it.
My favorite character in the book is Dart, and I'm not entirely sure why--at least I can't really say why because it gives way too much away about what happens in the book and I am not fan of spoilers. I think perhaps I like her because what she suffers is something some might call far worse than anything Tylar suffers. Read and you'll understand what I mean. I gather a lot of women would agree on that matter, then again, many might disagree. But I'm a man, so I can't say for certain.
The only problems I had with the book were based on my personal tastes. There are several scenes that he writes with great detail that just made my skin crawl. One in particular is a rape scene. I personally found myself disgusted. This is not to say that Clemens did a bad job, not at all. He wrote them well and got the desired effect from me I imagine. I just personally have problems reading scenes that describe such events in any detail whatsoever. I personally could never write such scenes--well that might be true, but I would certainly have a hard time doing it.
Nonetheless, this is a definite must read. Note this is not a children's book, so please don't read it to your children. It is very violent in some areas in such a way that is necessary. It is not excessive and not unneeded. Give it a read. I personally loved this book and hope many of you will too!

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  1. Anonymous2:08 PM

    Hey, I agree with you...this is such a good book!

  2. Glad to know someone else liked it :)