This is the sequel to Gregory Frost’s book SHADOWBRIDGE, and while you don’t necessarily have to read the first one before this one, you ought to. In fact, you ought to have both of them in hand, because the first novel ends on a cliffhanger.
This is a fantasy story for people who love fantasy, and for people who love stories. The world of Shadowbridge is multicultural and multivaried land where gods-created spans criscross the seas between islands. Each span has a dragon bowl, a shallow vessel extending out over the edge. Sometimes, the gods will come and give blessings to anyone who happens to be standing in the bowl. The gods also curse, however, and that’s the main focus of this novel.
Leodara, performing under the name Jax, is a shadow puppeteer whose fame has been growing as people compare her to her talented father Bardsham. Bardsham and Leodara’s mother disappeared under mysterious circumstances, and Leodara thinks she’s come to the root of those circumstances when she and Diverus (the troupe’s musician) come to a ruined temple, now made whole again when Leodara–okay, I’d better stop here, because it’s going to spoil the plot for anyone who’s read the first one and wanted to know what happened.
Jax has love and adventure and death and tragedy and escape and plenty of plot to carry you along, but I feel that the real strength of the novel is in the folktales that dot the novel like raisins in pudding. How you feel about this novel will depend largely upon how much you like folktales. They do feel like folktales more than anything else, bare bones plot with caricature-like figures and implausible events. It feels like reading the mythology of a foreign culture. If you like folktales, you’ll probably love this aspect of the novel.
I adore the fact that the heroine is a puppeteer. I’ve read oodles of stories about talented musicians, whose music is somehow good enough to alter reality, but I’ve never heard of a puppeteer’s art being lauded in comparable terms. I also enjoyed the multivaried sort of monsters. Mermaid-like creatures have mouths full of fish-teeth, sphinx-like creatures entrance you into pleasure and then suck out your soul, dark gods turn people to stone. I also liked the relation to the people and their stories, the way that stories contain a grain of truth which Jax uses to–but I won’t spoil that part for you. Find out for yourself.
I recommend this for people who like folktales, and for people who like unusual fantasy. It’s more mystery than sword-and-sorcery: none of the main characters are swashbucklers.