Friday, 24 March 2017

Shadowmagic - John Lenahan

"Fergal and I looked at each other like naughty schoolboys. When she was out of earshot, we both let out a very quiet yeehaa in defiance."

Shadowmagic was apparently a big part of J's childhood so he wanted me to read it for The Bookclub. And while I loathe to admit he ever does something right, it was a very good read (and very underrated, since if you search for it, Google comes back with "Did you mean shadow magic?"). It's available as a free audiobook read by the author, who's very, very excited about what he does and does it extremely well. There's also Kindle and paperback version so there's literally no reason you shouldn't read it (unless you really hate fantasy or teenagers or both for some reason).

Conor is an 18-year old living with his father and doing whatever teenagers do until he gets pulled into a magical land of Tir na Nog, where he's a prince and everyone wants to kill him because of an old prophecy. The book is heavily laden with Irish mythology, which was very refreshing and interesting to read about. Conor is also a very point of view -character for the reader, taking all of the magical things as a curiosity and cracking jokes about them every chance he gets. The description isn't very heavy since Conor seems a bit harebrained and doesn't really care about the finer details, which I suppose is fair enough.

There's some things I didn't really like all that much, one of them being the lack of female characters. There's literally only Conor's love interest, his mum (you don't want to know the first thing Conor says about his mum, trust me) and aunt, and I don't think that's near enough. Also, sometimes Conor is too immature to be likeable, too defiant to be relatable. While I understand his purpose as a POV character, I feel like sometimes it would have been better if he could just once do whatever he's told without questioning everything. Quite a few of the plot twists also come across as expected (as an audiobook, there's a cliffhanger at the end of each 15-ish minute long chapter), but the ones I didn't expect really kinda managed to blow me away. Conor didn't spend near enough time in The Real World for us to establish his life or personality there, but that might have been an "imagine your life here" type of gimmick. Still, I'm hoping the next two books will open that up for me a bit more.

Also, most of the characters didn't really get much of a personality. While Conor got some well-needed character growth during the book, both of his parents remained very distant. The love interest Esa (note: Conor also has a real-world girlfriend he doesn't seem to care much for) was mostly just a sort of badass love interest who didn't do much but be around so Conor could pine over her. There were a couple of others I already forgot. Fergal however, whom Conor befriends quite near the beginning, was amazing. That's all I'll say on this.  

All in all though, Shadowmagic was a really fun read. Lighthearted and warm and the kind of book that will take you on a grand adventure with the characters. I'm perfectly willing to overlook my less glaring complaints (although please give me female characters) and give it a solid 4/5.

For the Helmet 2017 reading challenge I put this in category 11: a Book by an acknowledged professional! This because John Lenahan is famous as an illusionist and (wikipedia tells me) was the first person in 85 years to be expelled from The Magic Circle (which I didn't even know existed). The more you know!

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