Shadowfall by James Clemens
Review by Joshua S Hill
I like finding books that I really enjoy. I come away refreshed and happy, knowing that if ever I need to go back and reread a book to make myself feel better – to hide myself from the wealth of mediocrity that rocks up on my doorstep each year – I have yet another book to read, and from first appearances, Shadowfall by James Clemens is just such a book.
I actually found myself a little confused while reading through the first third of this book, as the swap in perspectives and the role of said perspectives was very similar to that of the book I had just finished reading, Shadowmarch by Tad Williams.
Additionally, having so soon finished Shadowmarch, I realised that the stories even had a similar vibe, but that Clemens knew how to tell a story better than Williams does.
You see, the similarities between the two books are there, but they only occur within the first third of Clemens book, because Williams took what Clemens wrote in his first third and stretched it out into a full book.
Some lovers of Williams might suggest that Clemens rushed through it then, and that Williams is the better writer for not rushing. I’d say bollocks to that! Clemens has such perfect timing and pace that I was always found reading well into the late of night, well past when my light should have been out. That never happened with Williams.
Clemens has a better grip on his characters as well, despite including a mix of adults and children as the main characters. The whole world that Clemens has created in his Godslayer series is nothing short of fantastic, and left me feeling very desirous for the second book, Hinterland.
The world is full of gods who reside in the world in the flesh, bestowing Graces upon their servants through the various humours they produce; blood, tears, urine, etc. It’s a very unique approach to including gods in a book, as is the furthering of the story, which I won’t give away here.
Characterisation is a strong suit in this book, though maybe not to the same degree as a Barclay or Erikson. You feel for the characters, and the lack of whining and fearing one another is a blessed relief, in a world where almost every character you meet has a gripe with another or else is afraid to become close or is fearful of someone. Clemens writes characters that relate to one another realistically in a world that is coming down around their heads and they’re part of the cause.
When I first read the blurb of this book – about the same time I didn’t read the blurb for Shadowmarch – I felt that the book would be tiresome, following a cripple through a world he can’t properly interact with. Instead, I got a book that loses that trope almost immediately, and flips you head first into a world where gods can be killed and nothing is as it seems at first, second, or third blush. In fact there are some almost gleefully deliberate fakeouts that left me physically smiling.
Shadowfall is a brilliant book, and one that I would recommend to anyone who likes good reading, or who likes good fantasy, or both. A real gem in a world where a gem is normally just a piece of coal painted blue.
Again I agree with mister Hill. His description of this story is accurate without spoiling it for the interested readers. The emotions involving having read this book match my own, even though I'dd add that in my opinion this book is way better than Shadowmarch. (adding) It has a more 'grown-up' feel. It is not small scaled, nor is it childish in its descriptions of violence. Their is a better balance between talk and action. The scales between romantic descriptions and the horrowfull are great. All in all, in my opinion this is a story made by someone who wrote it because he needed to do it, with as much emotion as we enthousiastic readers read, and not something to make some extra cash. So in all awesome!
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