Four years after G. P. Taylor’s Shadowmancer was published in 2002, a sequel was released titled The Shadowmancer Returns: The Curse of Salamander Street in 2006. Do not be afraid: Taylor managed to release himself from the clutches of the religious cliché trap set for religious writers on their journey to share the Word through fiction. However, even with the absent clichés, the story is just as dull as its predecessor.
Where to begin, where to begin… On a positive note, the sequel picks up close to where the first story ended and follows the same characters: the African and the not-so immature children, Thomas and Kate, along with the evil man who tried to possess the power of God, Obadiah Demurral, and his Igor-like assistant, Beadle, are all present, so there is not too much to catch up on. Yet, as the young characters set off to sail to London at the end of Shadomancer, the readers find out that the African, whose name is Raphah, was tossed into the sea during a terrible storm and separated from the children in The Curse of Salamander Street.
Okay, supposedly a terrifying start to the sequel, but is Raphah dead? Of course not. Here is a religious pitfall Taylor stumbled across: on the shores from whence the trio left in the first book (supposedly on the island of Britain; it is never clear exactly where some of the characters are at times), Beadle ends up finding Raphah alive in the stomach of a giant fish… Sound familiar, anyone? And, as Thomas and Kate arrive in London with a well-known smuggler, Jacob Crane, they find the great city destroyed… why is it destroyed? If one has read Wormwood before The Curse of Salamander Street, a reader would understand that Taylor chose to take the London demolished from the comet of his Wormwood and place it in this story. However, one does not NEED to read Wormwood in order to understand and follow the plot of Shadowmancer’s sequel. Reading it would simply give extra little tidbits of information to the reader.
Here is where the book turns down the dull storytelling path. The readers follow two story lines: one following Raphah and Beadle who have teamed up and are traveling to London to be reunited with the others and the other story line following Thomas, Kate, and Jacob Crane in London who seem to just be wandering around aimlessly and getting into trouble. Both story lines offer no real entertainment. Raphah has resigned his self-righteous ways and has become quite the cranky character. Why? No one knows. And Beadle has reverted back from being somewhat of a hero at the end of the first book to being a wimp yet again. The other three characters are not much better off. Jacob Crane, who was not the nicest man in the first book, has now taken Thomas and Kate under his wing and is protective of them as a father would be of his children. Thomas continues to be his usual, gullible self and agrees to work for a man he just met and Thomas ends up being pretty much a slave in his factory. Kate’s moods still swing wildly back and forth and she develops a quarrel with the ghost of a young girl who is trapped in a portrait in the room she is staying in.
How does all of the aforementioned information tie into the first book? The characters are pretty much the only similar thing. Not to mention, Taylor decides to throw Demurral back into the story at random intervals and has him come back in with a vengeance for a “gripping” finale. The story basically lacks a villain (aside from the man who forces Thomas to work in his factory), so Demurral had to come in at some point. But wait! The reader is nearly done with the book and there have been no religious references! Cue the Holy Grail! Wait, what? Before the reader has time to concept what is happening at the end, the book is over. Not to mention (spoiler alert) one of the main characters dies. The reader should be feeling some emotion by this point, right?
Throughout The Curse of Salamander Street’s entirety, one feels no emotion for any of the characters. Granted, there are supposed to be many parts that should contain emotion, but do not. The lack of emotion is due to the easily forgettable plot. While Shadowmancer had readers rolling their eyes to the endless amount of religious clichés, The Shadowmancer Returns: The Curse of Salamander Street will have readers banging their heads on hard surfaces, silently begging Taylor for the plot to get better, to become more entertaining. A recommendation for adults concerning this book as well as its predecessor: leave the reading of it to the age group it was designated for.
Originally published at www.examiner.com on February 3, 2015.