Book Review: The Shadow Cycles by Philip Emery

The Shadow Cycles by Philip EmeryThe Shadow Cycles by Philip Emery

Immanion Press, 216pp, large format paperback, £12.99 cover price

Reviewed by R A Bardy [@mangozoid]

In his own words (and an extended Appendix herein subtitled The Tarot of  Sword-&-Sorcery) Philip Emery says The Shadow Cycles is his attempt at a redefinition of form for sword-&-sorcery [sic] in the twenty-first century, and as part of that process he has attempted to formulate and deploy a ‘new’ tarot, trying to focus on the form’s beginnings and also, potential. He spends a fair bit of time ‘dissecting’ Robert E. Howard’s  works, in particular the Conan tales, with a slight   nod to Tolkien’s ‘High Fantasy’ in LotR and concludes that a good combination of violence and the supernatural is potentially the ‘new’ sword-&-sorcery.

For my part, I’m really sorry, but I found a lot of it just jibber-jabber – and as if to top it off this story is so far from the worlds of either Howard or Tolkien that I think the author does a huge disservice to both, and himself.

In brief, The Shadow Cycles tells the story of five characters from different realms brought together to partake in a final apocalyptic battle against a ‘dragon’ of sorts, fought through a series of stages – and it is sooo boring… really, truly, genuinely boring… The entire book feels like a first draft and in desperate need of some tighter editing in so many places. I would consider myself relatively well-read, but never in my life have I had to reach for a dictionary so many times during a single book – words like quinquereme, tatterdemalion, porphyry, chalcedony, lazuli, sardonyx, dolerite, agate, and the slightly less obscure ‘tegular’ are liberally sprinkled throughout, like some kind of stone/quartz lexicon gone mad, and every one jars considerably, leading to an ultimately uncomfortable and irritating read from start to finish. Very very annoying, and impossible to recommend. Sorry.

* This review originally appeared on the British Fantasy Society website here

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