The blurb describes this book as a “quirky amalgamation of Contemporary Fantasy and Magical Realism, with a sprinkling of Classical Literature, Necromancy, and Russian Folklore added for good measure.” This pretty much sums Casting Shadows up nicely; it’s different to everything else I’ve read of late.
Set in the small town of Hurst, Ohio, the story opens with Edward hanging out at a cemetery in the rain. This was a beautifully written scene and sucked me in straight away. He’s there to raise an undead servant from the remains of a corpse. The servant Vincent is a strange being to get your head around; try to picture a skeleton with charred bones that seems to be on fire.
Edward wants to destroy mankind. After losing his parents & sister, he’s naturally angry at the world, and falls under the spell of a demon who takes advantage of his grief, setting Edward on a quest to bring destruction down upon humanity. Of course Edward can’t go through with this, and instead finds himself thrust forward as a warrior of protection. With his new mystical senses, he is privy to the hidden magic in the world, and in a dark forest he practises using his magical skills, preparing for the day he will have to face his enemy Briar Rose. Deep within this forest, he comes face to face with war-hungry goblins and friendly cogs. I loved the cogs: imagine branch-like/praying mantis-shaped creatures that speak. The goblins seemed to possess the strange Irish accent only American actors playing Irish characters can produce. Think of Tom Cruise’s voice in Far and Away and you’ll get the idea.
This story usually wouldn’t be my cup of tea but the descriptive writing drew me in from the first page. The prose is beautiful, evoking vivid images all the way through. On his unusual quest Edward encounters the giggling and deadly Briar Rose, another creature out to rip humanity apart at the seams, and the grandmother figure Emma who is actually a witch, and very, very old. We also get to spend time with the cursing, piss-taking cop Michael, Edward’s only friend in the world. He’s the sort of easy-going guy I’d enjoy going out for a beer with. I liked him much more than Edward who comes across as a sulky teenager for most of the book, rather than the 24 year old man he is. Too much time was spent on Edward’s training, leading to what I felt was a disappointing battle. I would have also liked more focus on Briar Rose. Her eerie giggle and child-like mannerisms belie her more sinister self.
This novel was easy and enjoyable to read, and I know I mention covers a lot in this blog but I love the artwork for this one. The figure half hiding in the trees, shrouded in his hoody is the perfect embodiment of the outsider Edward. Despite what sounds like heavy subject matter, Casting Shadows is a light read, perfect to while away a few hours. ****
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