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Shadowmagic , John Lenahan, book reviewThe current popularity of supernatural or fantasy fiction means that there is an awful lot of rubbish out there. Searching through the cheaper options available as Kindle ebooks is like negotiating a minefield – you know that there is every chance you will download a clanger. At only 49p, I thought there was nothing to lose with John Lenahan’s Shadowmagic – the low price could indicate it was rubbish, but at least I wasn’t risking spending a lot on it.

Shadowmagic’s main character is Conor, an eighteen year old boy who lives with his eccentric father. His father seems to live in the past and in a world of mythology, but soon Conor sees his father in a different light once they are both pulled into Tir-Na-Nog, the Celtic land of immortality, where Conor’s father was once a prince. Needless to say, Conor then meets plenty of strange beings (banshees, imps, brownies…) and has plenty of dangerous adventures in the quest to remove his dangerous uncle from the throne.

In many ways, Shadowmagic is more akin to fairy tales than the modern supernatural novels. I instinctively recognized many of the beings and creatures from Scottish folklore and other sources. While we are introduced to the characters by Lenahan, readers will know many of them already, and Lenahan only has to tell us some details of the beings.

Conor is a “real world” teenager thrown into a land of strange people, creatures and customs. Some of it he understands from his father, but many are new to him. Equally, he is new to them, and must keep his true identity hidden. This is easier said than done given that he frequently make references to real world things – he uses the word “cool” which they think refers to the temperature; he arrives in Tir-Na-Nog (known as the Land) wearing Nike trainers and a US sports jersey, previously unseen in the Land; his jokes fall flat as they refer to the “real world”. I enjoyed this aspect of the story, as it gives a point of reference in amongst all the folklore characters, and serves as a bit of an in-joke between the readers and Conor.

As I read Shadowmagic, I found it was reminding me of John Connolly’s The Book of Lost Things, which I read several years ago. Like The Book of Lost Things, Shadowmagic has a lead character who is lost in a world which he only has a basic understanding of; the difference is that The Book of Lost Things’ David is younger and is in a world more directly related to fairytales.

Lenahan’s style is quite straightforward. Shadowmagic is written in first person, from Conor’s perspective, and is not over-flowery, yet includes enough descriptive narrative to allow the reader to easily form a picture of the Land and the people who inhabit it. The story is gripping, and there are some tense moments. It is not too graphic, but there is death and fighting in the story, including tales of past wars and massacres. Despite reading the novel quickly as I wanted to find out what happened, it was only near the end, when there is an event of real sadness, that I realised just how much I had been pulled into Shadowmagic, and into the Land.

For the price, I was absolutely delighted with Shadowmagic. It is an enjoyable novel, suitable for adults and young adults alike. The ending seemed unsatisfactory following the story, but there is a sequel so clearly there is more of Conor’s story to come. John Lenahan is certainly an author whose work I will be seeking out in future.

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by John Lenahan

3 Comments on "Shadowmagic"

  1. John lenahan
    20/09/2011 at 12:23 Permalink

    Dear E

    Thank you so much for your kind words.

  2. John lenahan
    20/09/2011 at 12:24 Permalink

    Dear E

    Thank you so much for your kind words. A review like yours makes it easier to sit down and write book 3.

    John L

  3. eilidhcatriona
    21/09/2011 at 09:38 Permalink

    Hello John – many thanks for your comment and for taking the time to read the review. Since writing this review I have read book 2 and thoroughly enjoyed it, so I am eagerly awaiting book 3!

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Written by eilidhcatriona

A Scottish lass in her late twenties living in London. A prolific reader always interested in something new.

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