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Shadowfall: Book One of the Godslayer Chronicles

by James Clemens

(Orbit, £10.99, 470 pages, trade paperback, published May 2005. Orbit, £7.99, 674 pages, paperback, this edition published May 2006. Roc, 2005. U.S. $24.95 / Canada $36.00 hardcover. ISBN: 0-451-45994-6.)

Review by Martin Owton

Shadowfall by James Clemens (US edition)In the world of Myrillia the Gods live amongst men; their excretions so filled with the essence of magic that they are collected to fuel magical processes and engines. They can also die amongst men, and when one is slain suspicion falls upon a man. Tylar de Noche, once a Shadowknight, now a broken husk is branded Godslayer and pursued by the order that cast him out. Possessed of a god's magical essence and with a demon imprisoned within him, Tylar and his few friends must solve the mystery of the slain god to clear his name. His search takes him through the realms of gods both fair and foul to the citadel of the eldest god; Shadowknights and dark creatures dog his every move as a conspiracy to overthrow the rule of the gods is slowly revealed.

James Clemens has created an interesting and colourful variation on the standard fantasy world, particularly with the Gods. I did like the use of the Gods' humours as fuel for magical flying machines and submarines. He could have made so much more of this though. The reader gets little sense of how this world works, how the common people live and think as very few common people feature in the story. The interesting question of how the theology works when the Gods really do live on earth is unaddressed.

Shadowfall by James Clemens (UK edition)The pacing is sound enough with action scenes turning up every few pages, but it is with the characterisation that I have the greatest problems. The difficulty is that the POV protagonists, Tylar, his ex-fiancé Kathryn ser Vail, and the young acolyte Dart, do not really protag. Other people make the decisions that drive the plot and the characters merely react to them. The prime example is the thief Rogger, who Tylar meets early on in the story. Rogger most conveniently, seems to know a back entrance to every castle and a dodgy merchant in every port and guides Tylar's initial escape from the Shadowknights. A few chapters from Rogger's POV would have been interesting and possibly made the events feel less random. Overall the most sympathetic character is the young girl Dart, and she has least to do.

James Clemens is an experienced author with five previous books to his name. I do not think it unreasonable to expect him to exploit the opportunities that he created in this book in a more satisfying manner. Could do better.

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