Shadowless by Randall McNally
Author contact details:
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/Randall McNally
Published by Shadowless Ltd, December 2017
$14.99 for hardback and $4.99 Kindle
One of the best moments I have had since creating this blog about three years ago, apart from getting to interview some great authors, is, without a doubt, being picked out by a prospective author to review their book! So, firstly, thank you to Randall McNally (@RandallMcNally9), for trusting me with his pride and joy and a work of epic proportions. I’m not sure how long the book has taken to write (hopefully he will grant me a interview once I have finished and I can answer that question), but I’m sure a lot of hours have gone into its creation.
Now, I want to be clear, this is not a full review, as I haven’t finished reading the book yet. My original idea was to review it in small parts, as the book is 458 pages long, which is a lot longer than most of the books I tend to read and review at the moment. Many years ago, I read the ‘Lord of the Rings’, which in my version is 1008 pages (without the Appendices), and I have also read the whole series of ‘A Game of Thrones’ but most of the books I read at the moment are only about 200 pages long.
It is also a different genre to the types I usually read, not because I don’t like fantasy, but just because the other books that I get sent tend to be of other genres. I think I have only read and reviewed one other fantasy book on this blog – ‘The Wicked King’ by Holly Black. However, I haven’t really had the chance to blog on this book yet, so now that I am over half way through, I though I would say my thoughts so far, and then blog again when I have finished the whole story.
Alongside that, it also written for children of the age range 12-18, which is older than most of the target audience of the other books I read and review.
My review of the first half:
I love any book with a map – it really gets me excited at the beginning of a story to see another world appearing right before me. This story is set in the ‘Northern Realms’, which is a huge island. I do find the map a little lackluster, but I’m sure this must be do to with the cost of publishing a book of this size.
The story focuses on those named in the title, and each chapter follows a new ‘Shadowless’ character and their survival in various different places across the Northern Realms. As you read through the story, familiar names and characters do start to pop up again and again. The basic premise is that Amrodan, a Shadowless, who has survived for hundreds of years, is slowly pulling strings to find enough Shadowless warriors to take on and defeat the Gods, as without this happening all Shadowless will have to continue to live in fear. If a God manages to find a Shadowless they will kill them in order to gain more power. At the beginning of the story, a prophecy that one particular Shadowless will be born to defeat the Gods, has come true, and “the Shadowmancer is born.” Brother Amrodan and the Shadow Council seek to find and protect the Shadowless and find enough special weapons from across the realm to help them in the upcoming battle.
Each chapter is varied in its approach and in the character that it introduces. The description is fantastic and detailed. Each Shadowless has a different set of skills, depending on which God fathered them, for example, Arpherius can slow down time; Lauterbur Hess is immortal; Kayan Faelstrom can freeze people to death; and Dorrin Brethil is able to grow plants and produce magic potions. Some, like Pandimonia Torl, are traitors to their own kind, hunting them down and killing them. i found Dorrin Brethil’s character deep, complex and disturbing, but I won’t say anymore!
I have found doing this review has actually helped me understand the story much better, as I have been forced to go back and remind myself of some of the characters and what has happened to them. I like how the author is not afraid of ‘getting rid of’ some of the key characters – a brave step, but one that makes you trust them more. At the end of some chapters you really mourn the loss of someone, or you might hope that you see them again, so in that way, it really works focusing on one character per chapter. Personally, I found the number of characters too great, but that might just be my memory! Perhaps re-visiting some characters again earlier might help. Again, looking back at a book from half way has really helped me see the journey I have been on. At the beginning, I felt that the author was almost afraid to let their writing rip through the page, as a lot of the sentences were short and seemed almost unfinished. However, the confidence of the writer has really come through now that I have got half-way through the tale, and I am sure I will zoom through the second half, as I really want to know what happens!
Will Brother Amrodan find enough of the Shadowless to battle the Gods? Will he and they survive their encounter with those that want to kill them? What will happen in the final battle? Having seen some of the skills that some of the Shadowless have and what they can do with them, I live in hope! Do the dragons come into the story more?
As I am not a secondary school teacher, I’m not exactly sure how you could use this within the school curriculum, but alongside other stories in this genre, it is a wonderful example of how to weave a thread of characters and plot together to make a great story. It could inspire some children into writing something as epic.