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Date: 3 July, 2003
Reviewed by Charlotte Haines
in eighteenth century North Yorkshire, Shadowmancer is a story of an evil vicar
determined to wrestle power from God through any means possible; including killing
innocent children if necessary.
Needless to say a battle of good and evil ensues. However what separates it from its counterparts such as Potter or the Dark Materials trilogy is the theology. There's even a cheeky sideswipe at Ms Rowling with the line: "I don't think that a philosopher's stone or the witchcraft of some harlot has any use in this world of ours."
Maybe it's a sign of the secular society that we live in, that so many people including those at Faber don't see this as a book about faith, let alone Christian faith. Maybe it is just my background that caused me to read something into the descriptions of an all-powerful loving God, who heals and "makes you feel clean inside." And with images of Lord Riathamus standing at the door and knocking, and later becoming human, it is difficult to understand how this children's horror book has been accused by some quarters of being a celebration of witchcraft and occultism.
It is not just a spiritual yarn though, for as well as decent childrens adventure that mixes Enid Blyton with traditional Whitby gothic horror, there's a sharp point made about multiculturalism. Raphah arrives in Britain fully expecting a more civilised society than his, only to discover that we are rude to strangers, racist, selfish and Godless. People have to continually overcome their suspicions of dark skin and recognise that they need to learn from the foreigner in their midst if they are to survive.
A publisher willing to pay a vicar to write about God and racism in order to take on Harry Potter? Maybe it's not just in Shadowmancer that strange things are occurring.