Review: Shadowmancer

Shadowmancer Shadowmancer by G.P. Taylor
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Note: This review was originally written in the early 2000s and published for a no longer running website: AudiobookCafe. This review is focused on both the book and audiobook. Why must every megalomaniac attempt world domination at one point in their career—is it in a secret rulebook or something? Meet Obadiah Demurral, local vicar for a town on the Yorkshire coastline in the 18th century. While wielding considerable power and influence in the community, Demurral seeks more power and ultimately god-hood. He has captured the first of two sacred relics known as the Keruvim and is quite close to achieving his dream. One learns all that in the first fifteen minutes of “Shadowmancer,” a fast-paced, exciting youth novel by G. P. Taylor. This compelling adventure spans only several days and keeps listeners at the brink of their seats from the beginning with intriguing lore and characters. How powerful are the Keruvim? Should one fear boggles, shadows, and thulacks or are they just urban legend? Who is this mysterious, solemn African boy named Raphah?

We are quickly introduced to our young heroes. Thomas Barrick orphaned by Demurral actions and inactions. Kate Coglund, daughter of a drunkard and corrupt custom’s officer. The wise young Raphah, an African with strange powers and devout belief in his God. These three find each other short after Demurral gains control of the first Keruvim. However, only Raphah knows where the second Keruvim lies. So what do the kids do? Of course, they walk right into Demurral’s lair. Not all is lost or this would be a very short and pointless story. The story becomes your basic good versus evil story with demons battling for godhood and ideologies manifesting themselves in various characters of its wide dramatis personae.

Faith and strength of character manifests itself best in the character of Raphah. This African boy has such devout belief in his god that he is not even disconcerted when cast into slavery. One admires Raphah’s undying faith because his faith comes from his heart and soul, not from a book. His faith exists from his connection with his god and not from what he is told or expected to believe. In this, the audiobook delivers a fantastic message of faith and determining within just what is right and wrong.

Of note, Demurral’s character is the second most intriguing character. While history buffs don’t hesitate to point out the corruption of the church throughout the centuries, it’s always interesting to show an individual religious leader’s fall from grace. At the start, Demurral carries great power in his community, but power certainly can corrupt and listeners quickly find out that this follower of God also partakes in the dark arts. While many villains of youth novels aspire for power, Demurral’s goal for godhood is well told both literally and philosophically, helping the younger listeners understand the nature of good and evil on levels not usually present in children’s tales.

Demurral’s sidekick, Beetle proves another great character. Mirroring Quasimodo in some many ways, this wretched soul blindly follows his master mostly to avoid punishment and pain, which the vicar happily and unhesitatingly administers. But Beetle reveals himself to be not so insignificant as his name would imply and redeems his actions while under Demurral’s influence.

The story’s rapid pace and rich characters need lots of attention when being read. Graeme Malcolm delivers a certain quality to this audiobook that captures most of its essence. He voice betrays the youthful cynicism of Thomas and Kate, both characters having troublesome upbringings. He contrasts this fantastically with the calm and positive Raphah. He also executes a devilish Demurral who hints of insanity and a maligned Beetle. Where Malcolm falls short is with the climax. Throughout the story, his voice maintains a good level of energy, but one feels as he approaches the end, his voice wanes. Though the end presents the clash of deities, this awesome climax lacks the charge of an exciting read.

Taylor intended “Shadowmancer” for a young audience, but this audiobook is worth a listen to by anybody. With a great pace leaving no room to get bored, kids will enjoy it and adults will appreciate both its message and the thoughts it provokes.

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