Monday, 22 September 2008

‘Shadowbridge’ – Gregory Frost (Del Rey)

The beginning of 2008 saw Gregory Frost’s ‘Shadowbridge’ attracting a lot of positive comments from those who had read it, something that always gets me interested in reading the book in question.
So why has it taken me so long to get around to finally reading it for myself? I don’t know but the important thing is that I got round to it in the end! :o) Having finished ‘Shadowbridge’ I find myself wishing that I’d got round to it sooner, purely because if I had then I’d have finished ‘Lord Tophet’ (the sequel) by now and would know how it all ended. I’m sure I’ll find out sooner rather than later...

‘Shadowbridge’ is a world of bridges and spans that all link above a few scattered islands in a glittering sea. It is a world that Leodora is beginning to explore for the first time as her burgeoning career as a shadow-puppeteer takes her from the island (and a violent past) where she grew up and into a new world. Managed by a drunkard and accompanied by musician touched by the Gods, Leodora hunts out and collects stories to perform. Unbeknownst to her though, Leodora’s own story ranges further than she thinks and the plot is thickening around her...

‘Shadowbridge’ weighs in at only two hundred and fifty fives pages long but took me several days on the train, last week, to get through. This is a book that is deceptively slim once you realise how many layers of story sit on top of each other and how they interlink.
The world of ‘Shadowbridge’ is a world where stories, and the art of storytelling, are highly regarded and of great importance, a point emphasised by Frost in how the book is structured. All of the background and world building is delivered through Leodora’s storytelling and puppet shows, which keeps her character right at the forefront of things. Any gaps are filled in by Soter (her manager) who knows more than he is letting on, this with-holding of information proves annoying at times (especially when Leodora can see straight through Soter’s lies and chooses not to do anything about it) but is only to be expected in terms of the plot and its eventual conclusion. Stories intertwine with each other and this gets more complicated when we see Leodora take elements of stories in order to make her own. I found that I had to be a little careful, in my reading, as separate stories will flow into each other with little or no warning. A storytelling performance becomes the story of Leodora’s early years with seamless ease, it was the ‘seamless’ bit that had me reading a couple of pages over and over again to see if I had missed something... This can be irritating but once I got into the swing of things it wasn’t so big a deal.

The ‘storytelling theme’ is a clever device that hooked me and Frost backs it up with an interesting plot that isn’t particularly fast paced but introduces elements, such as the Agents, throughout the story that contribute to an ominous tone that grows in intensity. I found the locales, and people, to be richly drawn as well and at times I felt that I was taking a walk through the spans of ‘Shadowbridge’ while the story was taking place around me. It’s a world that’s rich in history but beware of the seamier elements that can trap the unwary... There is so much going on here that it’s just not possible to fit it all into one book, I hope there’ll be more in the future.

The manner in which ‘Shadowbridge’ (the first instalment in a duology) ends is abrupt, to say the least, and makes it clear that the book is only one part of a larger tale. I thoroughly enjoyed it though and will have to do some rearranging of the ‘To Be Read’ pile so that I get to find out what’s going on... If ‘Shadowbridge’ is anything to go by then I’m hoping for great things from its sequel.

Nine out of Ten

1 comment:

Priscilla said...

If you loved Shadowbridge, wait until you get your hands on Lord Tophet! Gregory Frost is a brilliant weaver of tales. You won't be disappointed.