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.

 

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12 Responses to “The Shadow Master by Craig Cormick”

  1. jenclair

    Sorry that this one didn’t work for you. I don’t like cringe worthy “love” scenes, but then I never want much detail in that area. Sounds as if there are some good points to the book, but maybe it isn’t for me, either.

    • lynnsbooks

      I do think it’s a really good concept. Just not for me. And that could simply be because i didn’t maybe understand it somehow?? I’m sure that I overlooked something here.
      Lynn 😀

  2. Mogsy

    My thoughts exactly! If I can’t get into the characters, it’s pretty much done for me. Considering that the whole conflict was the love story which supposed to rest upon the results of the war, I was disappointed that we didn’t get to feel much of the romance or bond between the two lovers. And I still don’t know what happened in the end :\

    • lynnsbooks

      It really is a shame that this book didn’t work for me (and you). I really think it’s such a great premise. Still sure that I’m missing something and yet by the end of the story I was more confused than at the beginning!
      Lynn:D

  3. Lisa (@TenaciousReader)

    There was SOO much left completely unaddressed. And the premise and beginning was promising. But, eurghh.. The euphemisms and failed metaphors about did me in. And as for humor, I certainly laughed a good bit reading this book, but I was not at all convinced I was *supposed* to be laughing. Ah well…

    • lynnsbooks

      I just simply didn’t ‘get’ so much of this book and I’ll never be able to look at the simple phrase ‘pulling your boat into the harbour’ or whatever phrase it was again!
      It just simply wasn’t for me and yet it ends up making me feel guilty – like I’ve done something wrong somehow by simply not loving it! Very strange. I think it’s because I expected and wanted to really like it.
      Lynn 😀

      • Lynn E. O'Connacht

        I hear you on feeling guilty for not liking a book (or a film etc)! For me it’s usually social pressure that makes me feel that way, so I tend to avoid hyped books. I know I won’t love them and I’ll just feel worse over that.

        I’m sad to hear that this book made you feel that way! It’s a horrid feeling. It does sound like a fascinating premise!

      • lynnsbooks

        I must confess that I hate giving negative reviews but I think that’s something I have to get over. At the moment, if I’m not enjoying a book I tend to stop reading because life is literally too short, but, with review copies I feel obliged to complete them. It was a good premise for a story and I’m sure some people will love it but for some reason it just didn’t work for me and I couldn’t relate to the humour.
        Lynn 😀

  4. Lynn E. O'Connacht

    I must confess that I hate giving negative reviews but I think that’s something I have to get over.

    I’d say “Only if you want to”, but when you’re getting ARCs in exchange for reviews, it’s only fair and honest to review them. I hate giving negative reviews too, which is why I never mention the books I’ve tried that I didn’t finish unless I announced it as one of my monthly reading goals.

    At the moment, if I’m not enjoying a book I tend to stop reading because life is literally too short, but, with review copies I feel obliged to complete them.

    I understand. I always felt obliged to finish every book I started, and then I encountered some that I just could. not. get. through. That helped. And still I hope you never run into a review book like that because it was an awful feeling that I wouldn’t wish on any reader.

    It was a good premise for a story and I’m sure some people will love it but for some reason it just didn’t work for me and I couldn’t relate to the humour.

    Sometimes books are like that, unfortunately. I think you did a good job at explaining what you didn’t like/click with and why, if it helps. Humour is a very personal thing and if it doesn’t click… It doesn’t click. It might at a different time in your life, but that’s little comfort when you want it to click with you now. Do you think you would have enjoyed it more if the humour had worked better for you or would you still have been pretty unhappy with it? *nosy*

    • lynnsbooks

      I think I may still have been unhappy with it to be honest. It just didn’t really gel for me and yet it was a good premise. I think the thing for me and negative reviews is that it makes me feel bad if I think I’m putting other people off reading something. But, I would feel equally bad if I gave an okay review and then somebody read it based on that when in actual fact I hadn’t really enjoyed it! It’s a funny old how do you do!
      Lynn 😀

      • Lynn E. O'Connacht

        I’m sad to hear that! Though I do understand. I get that a fair bit. Perfectly good premise, perfectly decent book, and we’re just not a good fit.

        Putting people off reading is certainly a possibility, but it can also be what convinces people to give a book a try. I’ve certainly picked up books I enjoyed based on other people’s negative reviews in the past. If the premise intrigued me enough, I would certainly have at least downloaded a sample based on what you said! ^_^

      • lynnsbooks

        Well, thanks for all your constructive comments. I always feel really mean if I give a negative review but I also think it’s important to be open and honest.
        If you do pick up this I would be interested to know what you make of it.
        Lynn 😀

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