Shadowfall (book, James Clemens, 2005)

FromSFX 132.


The First Chronicle of the Godslayer

James Clemens/Orbit/470pages

Can a man kill a god? Do you care?

As general rules of thumbs go, you can’t do much better than to be wary of fiction that includes the portentous phrase “So it begins”, or variants thereof. Shadowfall has it no less than twice in the first 100 pages.

Here’s the obligatory synopsis: In Myrillia, a world run by a 100 gods, Tylar de Noche is a disgraced Shadowknight (sub-Jedi dudes with fancy cloaks). But when he is witness to the first ever-slaying of one of these gods, a whole load of holy black bile (see below) hits the proverbial. Soon Tylar finds himself off on a well signposted adventure with a motley gang of fantasy staples. There’s a parallel storyline (another fantasy motif) about a mysterious girl (and there’s another one). Their paths cross, building to a predictable climax. Not that there aren’t surprises; Clemens has a stab at a half-hearted conspiracy, it’s just that the destinations for the characters involved are obvious, to say the least.

Shadowfall is yet the latest in a long line of secondary worlds that rely on”the one good idea” – the one here being that the gods’ excreta can bestow magical “graces” upon men. These nine humours range from blood (self-explanatory), to yellow bile (wee) and black bile (poo).The greats of the genre swim in this stuff; you can drown in their worlds, so richly detailed are they, ­but there’s not enough here to wet your palate. To suspend your disbelief you need to believe these places exist. You might believe Myrillia exists, but only as a piece of provincial theatre in Michigan. And lumping together two words to make one made-up word DOESN’T HELP. Here’s an example “The jackawillows will be blooming in another moonpass”. See? I’m not feeling whisked away, are you?

The only reason this book gets the mark it does, as opposed to nothing, is that it doesn’t make you want to stab yourself in the eyes with a Fantasy Quillpen™. There are worse out there.

Did you know?

The whole humours idea is taken from ancient medicine. From classical times until the early modern period it was believed these elemental liquids determined health, and is the origin of the practise of bleeding.



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