Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Review - Shadows by John B. Olson

By John B. Olson
B & H Publishing Group, 2009
Fantasy, 390 pages

Shadows opens with a young girl named Mariutza (Mari) who was raised in isolation by a grandfatherly gypsy in the swamps of Louisiana. Conflict begins when we learn that prophetic powers of a spiritual nature made the elderly man a target of what Mari calls the badness. After he dies in the opening pages, the badness follows Mari as she leaves the swamps to look for Jaazaniah, grandson of her mentor.

Jaazaniah, (Jazz) is a New Orleans jazz artist raised by a father who rejected his heritage. The young man's story (beginning in the second chapter) opens with strange visions that interfere with his performances and turn life into a nightmare. A rich benefactor, medical personnel, police, and even the military enter the action.

Readers may not understand the concept, but will notice the limited third-person viewpoint. When reading about Mari, readers see the world in third person from Mari’s point of view. When reading about Jazz, readers see the world in third person from Jazz’s point of view. The effect can be comical, as when Mari receives miscue after miscue because she cannot decode the culture of New Orleans. More often it causes crisis. Jazz tries to reject the strange occurrences he can’t understand when they invade his world. The twi misunderstand each other. Readers immersed in the limited viewpoint of the characters feel their struggles.

A predictable romance is a key to resolution, but aspects of suspense held my interest. Powers offers an enjoyable, quick read.

I purchased this fantasy because it came with a writing tutorial that sounded helpful, and because I thought it would be interesting to learn something about a genre I rarely read. In the process, I discovered I was interested for another reason. I believe a spiritual realm with good and evil elements is real. And although Christian elements are toned down, much of the narrative seemed within the realm of possibility. But some did not. So was it or was it not an attempt to describe spiritual reality? Or was it supposed to be total fantasy? Or did Olson intend to leave lingering questions?

Perhaps readers who pursue the genre could answer that question.

I have not received compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned or pictured. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

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