Robin Wayne Bailey
Completed 5/6/2018, Reviewed 5/6/2018
Every now and then I get a book that’s meh, not bad but not very good. This is one of them. Shadowdance seems like it should be better than it is. The publisher’s summary is really good, but the execution is just not that great. The prose is good, but somehow it doesn’t convey the angst and the occasional horror all that well. I found this book by perusing some LGBTQ-themed book lists. It wasn’t nominated for anything, which I think is a good thing. It’s an okay novel, but really nothing worth recommending.
Innowen is a young man paralyzed from the waist down since birth. He comes upon a witch who gives him the ability to walk, but only at night. In return, he must dance every night. However, anyone who witnesses the dance becomes obsessed with their deepest, darkest desire, acting it out, regardless of the repercussions. Innowen sets out to find the witch and lift the curse. While unsuccessful in his journey, he finds he has relationships he never knew before amidst plots by the witch to destroy the kingdom.
See, it sounds good even as I write the summary, and parts of it are good. The beginning is just magical. That’s the part where he meets the witch, gains the ability to walk, and finds out the curse of watching the dancing. It really grabbed me. The last thirty to forty percent of the book was also exciting. In that part, we find out about the twists and turns of the relationships between Innowen’s guardian, his adoptive father, the witch, her champion, the king, and his daughter. It’s a tangled web but handled well. The middle third simply dragged. I haven’t said this for a while, but I believe you could have cut about one hundred pages of this section and you wouldn’t miss any continuity.
I think the main purpose of the middle part is to establish all the relationships with Innowen, including that of his lover Razkili. That relationship is not very clearly defined however. There are no love scenes, or even a hint of romance between the two. You have to infer it from them sleeping together platonically. Then suddenly, the author starts using the term lover to describe their relationship. I didn’t make the connection at first. I was waiting for a scene to signify that a little more clearly. It didn’t need to have a sex scene, but it needed something a little more profound.
The prose was pretty good. In general, I thought it was very easy reading. The sentences and paragraphs flowed very well. The only think that got me was some of the emotions Innowen had. He got angry a lot, about his plight, about the relationships, about the curse. My general feeling was that a lot of times, anger wasn’t called for. Other emotions definitely, like pity, surprise, sadness, but not anger, at least not all the time.
The book ended on a high note, and it began well, so I’m giving it three out of five stars. The whole dancing plot was really interesting. It works as a book, but thinking about it as a film, it would be kind of hokey, losing all the drama. Reading it is definitely better than watching it would be. I’m not sure why I thought about it as a film. For some reason, I kept on thinking about it terms of Channing Tatum doing the dancing, and it made me laugh.