book reviews by Althea

A Shadow All of Light – Fred Chapell ***

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A Shadow All of Light: A Novel
A Shadow All of Light: A Novel by Fred Chappell

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Maybe it’s just that I read ‘Ill Met in Lankhmar’ just recently, but I don’t think so. This book really brings Fritz Leiber and his ilk to mind, harking back intentionally to the swords and sorcery of an earlier era. The episodic structure and ‘low fantasy’ theme are similar to the Fafhrd and The Grey Mouser tales. The language that it’s told in definitely references Jack Vance. (Think: a liberal sprinkling of archaic and ‘ten-cent’ words in the midst of an otherwise informal, chatty narrative.)

As far as that goes, YMMV. I know many people love Vance’s writing style and laud it to the heavens. I personally have tended to find his prose stylings annoying. However, I actually found the language here amusing, because it fit with the narrator’s personality of a belatedly-educated man with the desire to impress his readers.

This narrator is known as Falco, a onetime ‘country bumpkin’ who came to the big city with the goal – in which he succeeds – of convincing the notorious shadow master (or thief?) Maestro Astolfo to take him on as an apprentice. In this world, shadows are a commodity. They can be separated from their owners, bought and sold, used for disguise or other purposes. Much of the trade in shadows is less than wholly legitimate.

In this volume, Falco tells us a series of tales, spanning a couple of decades, of his various adventures (and misadventures) working for and with the Maestro. Sorceresses, pirates, burglaries, assassins, booby traps, magicked jewels, double-crosses and suchlike accoutrements of fantasy adventures all make their appearances.

Many thanks to Tor and NetGalley for the opportunity to read. As always, my opinion is solely my own.

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