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Shadowmancer

Style: Average

Attitude: Take Care

Author: G.P. Taylor

Publisher: Faber & Faber

Published in: 2003

Age Range: Pre Teens

Period: 18th C

Setting: the Yorkshire coast, near Whitby

Genres:  AdventureFantasyHistoricalMagic


Characters:

  • Obadiah Demurral is the local Parson, godless and cruel. Intent on his own power, he owns all the land around and extorts cruel taxes from the parishioners, branding them as his slaves and setting them to work mining alum shale when they cannot pay. An altogether wicked man.
  • Raphah is a young man who has travelled from Africa to recover the Keruvim, a holy relic stolen from his people's temple where they worship Riathamus, the One True God. His faith in God is unshakeable and he heals people by laying hands on them in God's name.
  • Thomas and Kate are two local youngsters who become involved with Raphah and undertake to help him recover the Keruvim and stop Demurral. Friends from childhood, they grow closer over the course of the story to the point where they are described as "an Adam and an Eve" by the Devil when outlining his plans for the overthrow of God.

Synopsis:

Parson Demurral is using the power of the Keruvim to bring him the power he wants; Raphah, helped by Thomas and Kate, has to recover the Keruvim and stop Demurral before he ends the Time of Captivity and lets loose the fallen Seruvim. Demurral calls to his aid various demonic powers while the young people are helped by Jacob Crane, the local smuggler. After escaping death at Demurral's hands, the children escape cross-country but are finally cornered in Whitby where the dramatic climax takes places in the ruins of the Abbey.

Notes:

General: Hmmm. Jamaica Inn meets His Dark Materials. The author is throwing a lot into the pot during this story: alien warriors, sea creatures, possessing demons, a wicca man, a friendly family of Boggles, dark creatures in the forest, God and his Angels, the Devil and his. I just wonder whether he might not have overdone it. Having said that, the narrative is fairly straightforward, moving from one point of view to another, something which weakens the tension rather but which makes it simpler to understand.

Good & Evil: The author is presumably a Christian, although going by the brief biography inside the front cover (“G.P.Taylor has spent the whole of his life searching for the hidden secrets of the universe. He lectures on the paranormal and folklore and lives in a secluded graveyard”) it seems that he may have a few other irons in the fire. He seems to have thrown all his wide interests into the one book, with the result that someone not wholly sure of their ground to start with will end up confused as to the relation between God, the Devil, Angels and the various creatures of folklore which the author unearths for our benefit.

The Dark Side is clearly represented by Demurral and the various dark creatures he conjures up in his quest for power, including the Devil. While Raphah and the children are clearly championing the cause of Light, Jacob Crane's position is not so clear: for all that he helps their cause rather Demurral's it's essentially for his own ends.

Religion: Despite the names, Raphah's Riathamus is clearly the Christian God and Demurral's Pyratheon is just as clearly the Devil. Jesus Christ appears twice to Thomas in a vision to give him guidance and strength and then once to all three youngsters in person in the forest, a meeting which leads them to accept the help of Raphael the archangel when they reach Whitby. The Devil appears in person towards the end of the book, taking the form of a handsome man.

The ending, where the devil believes he has overthrown God by taking possession of the Keruvim from Raphah (!) becomes even more confusing when Raphael re-enters and tells him that his time has not yet come.

“This is magic, it comes from Pyratheon. I lost so many years following the wrong way. I tried so hard to understand all that I had been taught as a child, but in the end it was useless. There was no power, no glory, only empty words. I wanted God to give me one sign. To change water into wine just for me, but I got nothing. I was taught to love my neighbour as myself, and love God with all my heart. But how can you love someone who is against the true Prince of the world? How can you love your neighbour when you don't even love yourself?”

Beadle looked dumbfounded by his words. Deumrral continued to speak, starting out of the windows.

One day you may understand, but in this small sign of blood and water I now know where they are and I will stop them. There is only one thing in this world worth dying for, and that is power. Power over people, power over the elements, and ultimately the power to be God. With the Keruvim I can control the elements. When I have them both I will change the world, and I will bring about the death of God. This time he'll be nailed to the tree for ever.“

Tuesday 9th December 2003