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Shadowmancer    by G. P. Taylor order for
by G. P. Taylor
Order:  USA  Can
Putnam, 2004 (2004)
Hardcover, Audio
* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Vicar Obadiah Demurral is all-powerful in the coastal village of Thorpe in Yorkshire but, despite his calling, he's not a power for good. With the help of his servant Beadle, Demurral works dark magics, raising up a storm that causes a ship to flounder. All perish except for one.

Demurral has already obtained, by devious means, half of the 'Keruvim' - if he obtains the other half, he will possess 'the power of God', and it's very clear that he will not use it to help others. When Demurral claims the 'right of salvage' to the shipwreck, only thirteen-year-old Tom Barrick dares raise his voice against the Vicar. Tom has little left to lose - his fisherman father died at sea, his mother is extremely ill after their home was burned down, and Tom now lives in a 'hob hole', a cave in the sea cliff. When Demurral sends a monster after Tom, he's saved by a young black man, Raphah, who survived the shipwreck.

Raphah tells Tom of his faith in Riathamus, who guides his people in all things. Raphah has been sent to retrieve the Keruvim stolen by Demurral's agent. Tom agrees to help him, and they're soon joined by his defiant friend and protector, Kate. Soon, Raphah is captured by Demurral, while Tom and Kate are pursued by 'Varrigal'. They find refuge at Boggle Mill with Rueben Wayfoot, a character reminiscent of Tolkien's Tom Bombadil. Thomas dreams of a great and kind King, who exhorts him to have faith. Later, a smuggler named Jacob Crane, offers his dubious help. Tom and Kate cope with betrayal and capture, escape and pursuit, and confrontation with a great evil in a church.

Shadowmancer is a tale of monsters and miracles, adventure and faith, imbued with Cornish myth and magic. Though disjointed at times and weak on characterization, it's an exciting read. Raphah's belief stays strong, despite constant abuse, while Tom and Kate grow into their own faiths. The book ends on shipboard, as the young people sail into what is sure to be another entertaining adventure.

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