The Shadow Master by Craig Cormick
Just finished reading The Shadow Master by Craig Cormick. I must confess that I’ve come away from this book feeling utterly puzzled. And not really in a positive way to be honest! However, let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
This book has got such a great premise. Set in an alternative Italy, historical in nature and revolving around two families at war and a pair of star crossed lovers – sound familiar at all? Yes, the main pair are clearly based on Romeo and Juliet. The plot has strange magical devices and throws into the mix Leonardo and Gallileo – two great inventors who work not only on their scientific creations but on keeping peace between the opposing families. On top of this we have a strange fanatical religious sect and a world rife with the plague.
The Medici and Lorraine family run the show. The spices they import help to keep the plague at bay for the inhabitants of this walled city. But both of the families seek ultimate control over the other and their rivalry turns to war after one of the Medici brothers is killed by assassins. Obviously the Lorraines are the chief suspects and so begins a game of maneuvering with a third party, the Shadow Master, contriving to play his own game whilst sitting at the centre of everything pulling everyone’s strings and directing the course of events like a spider sat in the middle of a web. Now on top of that we have the unfortunate lovers – not really destined to be together when their families are at war or maybe they’re exactly what’s needed to save everyone!
There is just so much to like about this book. Such a lot going on. It’s certainly a fast read and don’t even get me started about covers. So why didn’t I love this book? The thing is I very rarely write negative reviews because I don’t often finish a book if I’m not enjoying it so in that respect this book did hold me to the pages until the very end – which is a positive! I think the things that prevented me from enjoying this book were. The romance didn’t work for me. I wasn’t convinced by the love the two characters felt in fact it was like being told they’re passionate but not really being shown on the page. On top of that, the love making scenes were simply bizarre. I can’t really explain it any better without giving away spoilers but some of the terminology just made my eyes pop or made me cringe a little. The strange thing is I have a horrible feeling that I’m simply missing something and that the constant reference to metaphors and the use of such odd descriptions should mean something more to me but frankly they don’t and they didn’t. I just can’t help feeling that I’m missing something fundamental or maybe that certain elements were meant to inject humour but it didn’t quite work out for me in that way – that’s the thing with humour though the same thing won’t appeal to everyone. It also felt a little like there was just too much going on. Now, this certainly adds to the entertainment value and keeps you a bit on pins and wanting to read on to solve the mystery but it also detracts a little bit from the world building and the characterisation. I think on reflection there wasn’t a single character in this book that I actually engaged with or really cared for. Nor did I actively dislike any – even the crazy baddies! On top of that I’ve finished the book and I really can’t put my finger on what has actually happened or why. I’m sure there’s a next in series and maybe it will all become clear at that point but for now I don’t understand so much of what took place and the conclusion of the story didn’t help with this. I mean, what was the significance of what was going on beneath the city in the labyrinthe of tunnels? Other than to add a horror element to the story?
I give in – I just felt a lot of things didn’t work for me personally so whilst I was desperately reading on trying to find out what was happening I don’t feel I ever reached any sort of conclusions. Now, like I said, the next in the book could solve all of that but that won’t be a book for me I fear. I just didn’t really feel this gelled for me but it could work for you and I would certainly be interested in having some light shed upon the events here.
Thanks to the publishers and Netgalley for providing me with a copy of this book. The above is my own opinion.