It is easy for someone who has an unshakable faith in his or her religion to write about his or her beliefs in the form of fiction for the world to read. However, the difficulty lies in keeping readers of religious fiction interested. A writer of religious fiction, namely Christian fiction, can easily fall into the clichés of everyday believers. “If you believe in the light, darkness will never consume you,” “No matter what you tell me, you cannot shake my faith,” and “Believe with all your heart in Christ, our LORD, and you will be saved” are but a few of the religious clichés that are expressed in many fiction books about religion.
Unfortunately, British writer G. P. Taylor fell into the religious cliché trap with his book Shadowmancer. Taylor intended his book to be for children 12 years and older and to have the message of his book inspire these children to find the word of God if they had not done so already. However, both children and adults alike will catch on to religious sayings that may cause a roll of the eyes due to the blatancy of the messages.
The plot itself is predictable: an evil man named Obadiah Demurral, who was once a religious man, now believes that Satan is more powerful than God. He is in search of an item that he believes will give him the power to overthrow God in Heaven. Only a young man from Africa and two immature children stand in his way. Just from the short synopsis alone, one can already get a good idea as to how the 250 page book will end. But, aside from the plot, let us take a closer look at the book’s contents.
Aside from the cliché religious messages spread throughout Shadowmancer’s entirety, the storytelling is not very intriguing and readers will more than likely lose interest only twenty pages in. The characters are fairly flat and really have no visible change. The African man is a man of God and tries to teach the Word to the children he is stuck with. One child believes the Word a bit too quickly than realistically believable while the other’s mood changes at the drop of a hat. The villain is a man of words and no action and his Igor-like servant is a nuisance to the reader any time he comes on the page.
Taylor gives too much detail at times, leaving nothing for the reader’s imagination. Picturing where the story is set is difficult even with the hand-drawn map before the first chapter. The characters jump from place to place so quickly, it is hard to keep track of where they are. And the references to Biblical stories in the Old Testament make the reader want to sometimes bang his or her head on a table.
Though the book is difficult to read through, it did have some good messages for children who may be looking for religion. Messages about hope, light defeating darkness, and believing in the impossible are but a few simple messages that could plant a seed (or in Shadowmancer’s cliché case, a mustard seed) that could spark a child’s interest. For these types of children, Shadowmancer would be a good one time read, not to mention the last two pages are surprisingly worth the wait.
If one is looking for a good religious fiction book to read, do not pick up Shadowmancer. If one is looking for a religious book for a child, Shadowmancer may be good to rent at the local library. Taylor wrote three books after Shadowmancer: one sequel (Shadowmancer Returns: The Curse of Salamander Street) and two that tie together with the plot (Wormwood and Tersias the Oracle).
Originally published at www.examiner.com on November 6, 2014.