CM . . .
. Volume XVI Number 23. . . .February 19, 2010
The Shadow Road. (The Warlocks of Talverdin, Book Four).
K. V. Johansen.
Victoria, BC: Orca, 2010.
216 pp., pbk., $12.95.
Grades 4-9 / Ages 9-14.
Review by Janet Johnson.
Reviewed from Advance Reading Copy.
Pale, dark-eyed faces. My captors were my own people, Nightwalkers.
I beat on the sides and lid of the coffin, pounded again with my feet. The end of the coffin never creaked, the work of a skilled joiner. Strong catches closed the lid, I screamed—the hoarse, voiceless wail was all I seemed to have left. My hands ached, throbbed and then went numb and damp. And still I pounded, wailed, though I could not shape the words, Papa, Mama, why don't you come? Why doesn't someone come? Why doesn't someone come to me...?
The Shadow Road, the fourth book of the "Warlocks of Talverdin," is the best so far. Fast paced and dramatic, Nethin's adventure took swift hold of my imagination and provided a splendid imaginary escape to another world.
The story of Talverdin and the Island of Eswyland is continued in this fourth book with the story of a new generation. Life has gone on in Eswy, and the heroes and heroines from the earlier books have now married and have grownup children. Still, the old racial prejudice between the two races, Nightwalker and the human population, continues although, in some areas, it has almost been forgotten. The story is centred around a young man, Nethin'kiro Rukiar, who, readers learn, is scholarly and yet skilled in the arts of battle. Readers also learn that Nethin is struggling to understand his own identity as the son of a mixed marriage between a Nightwalker and a human witch as he remembers his old life while confined to the coffin. Adolescents will identify with the emotional ups and downs of adolescence and the need for self control. It seems that Nethin has the potential to become a powerful Maker, or warlock, but as the story unfolds, this same power will put him in harm's way.
Rosing, his great grandfather, and a vicious character named Orlando kidnap Nethin and keep him hidden in a coffin which has been enchanted to smell of dead flesh in order to travel and avoid capture. Orlando's cruel nature is captured by Johansen through his insidious relationship with Nethin, pretending to be half breed as well. His despicable treatment of Rosing, once he is safe on the Shadow Road, is unforgettable. The other accomplice in the kidnaping is a "toady" apothecary who keeps our hero drugged to keep him from using magic to escape and to wake him to study a magic spell that will open the Shadow Road. Rosing wants to go back to the Homeland on the Shadow Road to bring Nightwalkers back to Eswy to destroy all humans. Unknown to them, travel on the Shadow Road causes the fabric of the world to become unstable, and it has destroyed the Homeland and caused the death of most of the inhabitants.
The reader will also be interested in two other characters and the roles they play in rescuing Nethin. Wolfram, once named Aldis, son of Prince Alberick whose story occurs in an earlier book, eventually comes to Nethin's rescue as part of his service in the Baroness Oakhold's retinue. Also, there is a relationship interest when Nethin meets with the brave survivor of genocide, Alabeth Narron Kiron, one of the last descendants of the Kiron. Their encounter is the start of a romantic interest which will appeal to this age group.
In this 'high fantasy' series, Johansen has managed to create a dark and serious fantasy revolving around a race of warlocks, witches and humans living together on an island setting in an undetermined time. Each story in the series is consistent with the others and brings alive more of the history of its people. If terms and people have been forgotten, readers can refer to the helpful glossary at the end of the book. However, a family tree might now be useful in addition to the two maps at the beginning of the book.
The quality of the writing is also consistent with the other novels in the series, and the use of the High Court language spoken principally by Alabeth, as last of the Kiron, is believable and easy to follow.
Janet M. Johnson is a librarian and instructor at Red River College in Winnipeg.
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