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Lord Tophet: A Shadowbridge Novel    by Gregory Frost order for
Lord Tophet
by Gregory Frost
Order:  USA  Can
Del Rey, 2008 (2008)
Softcover, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Lord Tophet follows Shadowbridge in Gregory Frost's unusual and intriguing fantasy duo. It unveils the coming of age - and into her storytelling inheritance - of Leodora, daughter of shadow-puppeteer Bardsham, who was a legend in his time across this strange world of ocean and bridges.

Leodora, who hides behind a mask and calls herself Jax, collects stories from folk of each span, and tells tales with even more brilliance than her father (Frost shares many of these stories with readers). In the first book, her parents' friend Soter helped Leodora escape from her brutal uncle and taught her to use the puppets. On the road, she was joined by Diverus, a god-touched musician with a background just as strange as her own. That first episode ended on a cliffhanger after the storytelling trio (Leodora, Soter and Diverus) found their way to the cursed Colemaigne. The span was long since blighted by the godlike Lord Tophet, the Destroyer, after Bardsham's final performance. There Leodora was transported by the gods from the Dragon Bowl into a parallel Edgeworld and given a gift, just as Diverus was before her.

Now Leodora returns to friends old and new and a miraculously changed Colemaigne with a Brazen Head pendant that occasionally offers sage counsel (unfortunately in riddles). Jax's troupe performs in Colemaigne's renewed theater to the joy of its inhabitants, as well as those of neighboring spans who swell their audience. Unfortunately this comes to the attention of Lord Tophet's ruthless Agents of Chaos on the trail of the new storyteller. As Leodora and Diverus seek information about her past from a mirror world (spied by them as an upside-down span) and fight their strong mutual attraction, danger creeps steadily closer to strike Colemaigne once more. Diverus risks everything to save Leodora, who in turn follows him to fulfill her storytelling destiny as Lord Tophet's Bane.

I recommend this high fantasy duo to you (but do read them in order). In Shadowbridge and Lord Tophet, Gregory Frost unleashes a powerful imagination in a world of stories, reminding us of the essential fluidity of the oral tradition and aptly ending on the comment that 'not all mysteries are explained.'

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