It took me quite some time to finish The Shadow Eater (1998), the second novel in The Dominions Of Irth, a fantasy series by Adam Lee. The main reason for this, getting immediately to the bottom of it, was the erratic behavior of the characters combined with an unstable plot. For a while I managed to trudge on until I was tired of it. I put it down for quite some time while I was about halfway. A few days ago I decided to pick it up again for some reading during travel and for once I found the right rhythm and managed to finish it within a few days.
It should be clear already that this will be a negative review for this novel. The first novel of The Diminions Of Irth, The Dark Shore, was not particularly good, but is had some interesting odd notions which gave it something different from the usual fantasy. It has some strange things in it and mixed it with some familiar fantasy elements. When I came across the next novel it was these traits which made me decide to pick it up and see where it would go.
In this novel returns with a number of familiar characters while adding in new ones. He expanded the setting almost to the max, with several strange new worlds in a interestingly crafted universe. However, he does not manage to make good use of it. The visits to the different places are so brief and superficial that there is hardly any time to get acquainted or to provide a stable setting. This was one of the elements that attributed to the unstable plot. A lot of things happen so quickly in a row that you lose track of time and the synchronicity of different events which seem to occur without having to bother by what happened elsewhere. Everyone just pops up wherever and whenever the author needs them to be. At a certain point I gave up trying to make sense of it, ignored it simply and read on.
Now for the erratic behavior of characters. One thing that Lee used often was that if a group of characters was deciding on the best course to follow, one of object and propose an obviously stupid course using poor arguments for his claim. The others would try to convince him, fail and accept the stupid decision, although they realize its not smart to do. The next thing would be that the chosen course would lead to disaster. Sure, it can happen once, but when the stakes rise the more experienced and strong characters should lead and decide and not let their plans be overturned by the inexperienced and weak characters almost every time.
So all in all the plot didn’t make much sense in the way it developed. In itself the plot was fairly interesting. The problem was that with all the chaotic things happening there was little time to spend sufficient time to develop the characters and explore the settings.
What is still nice about the series is that it contains some original ideas and concepts. It can certainly be classified under weird fantasy, mixing a lot of elements together. The prose itself is alright. Unfortunately Lee rushes events so much that he does not use enough words for decent dialogues, characterization and settings. There is no more than is needed for the story and that is a pity. Some scenes were written quite vividly and were quite enjoyable. There were only few of them so they were the only highlights in and novel that lacked in many other places. This was far from the decent quality of first novel. There is still a third novel called Octoberland, but I don’t think I will try to get it that quickly. In The Shadow Eater Adam Lee explores the universe behind the first novel. It concludes some leftover open ends and answers many leftover questions. I did not have the feeling that there was more to know.