Cast a Bright Shadow by Tanith Lee
Tor (uk) Trade: ISBN 140500634X PubDate: 06/01/04
Review by Antony Wagman
384 pgs. List price £10.99
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Just in case you’ve been living on Mars for the last twenty years, Tanith Lee, or Tanith Lee Kaiine to give her a full title, is a British author who has written over 50 novels and short stories and has received the World Fantasy Award several times as well as the August Derlath Award.
Cast a Bright Shadow is set on a world of perpetual ice. The basic plot of the story follows an unloved princess who has been sent by her father (the King of course!) as a peace offering by way of marriage to one of the other tribes on the continent. Unaware that the King has no intention of her reaching her intended, she is attacked, raped by a God, killed and resurrected in only a few short pages. Her son, being a demi-god then goes about conquering the continent with the help of his ghostly uncle.
This novel strikes me as far more SF than fantasy. Certainly fantasy rears its head with the half-man-half-God lead character, but this is combated by a totally alien landscape and setting – although the astute amongst us may note that this ice-age has only been around for several hundred years. At the risk of sticking my neck out I would guess that whatever brought about the ice will be a major part of the coming sequels .
This is a difficult book to précis due to the sheer amount of characters, events and storylines all competing for the reader’s attention within only four hundred or so pages . I confess to having felt more than a little overloaded with so many combinations of characters, cults, creatures and civilisations- all with different names, brands and attributes. A pleasurable read is soon turned into a not so pleasurable memory exercise with regular trips to the Glossary needed. Thank goodness one was provided!
Cast a Bright Shadow creates further brain-freeze with Lee’s insistence upon the use of tribesman-like diction by her characters. The experience of this novel would have been a lot smoother if after a few phrases of “me Tarzan , you Jane” characters reverted to some accessible vernacular instead of communicating via guttural chest beatings.
In summary, Cast a Bright Shadow is a piece of muscular ideas, strong themes and varied perspectives, yet it remains disjointed in composition.