Edward Kelley wants to destroy the world. His family is dead and his odd habits have made him a pariah in the small town of Hurst, Ohio. After the unexpected arrival of an anonymous package, Edward quickly discovers the tools to forge his malevolent fantasies into reality. Yet, he soon finds that he is not the villain of his own story and, with the help of a surrogate grandmother, an undead servant, and a foul-mouthed cop, he is fast on the road to becoming an unlikely hero. Casting Shadows is a quirky amalgamation of Contemporary Fantasy and Magical Realism, with a sprinkling of Classical Literature, Necromancy, and Russian Folklore added for good measure.
Hello there Book Lovers! Draconismoi here. I’ve been lurking in BLI’s comment section for a couple years now, generally enjoying all the snark directed at covers (are interns spiking the coffee in the big publishers’ art departments?), and adding FAR too many books to my wishlist.
Then our lovely hosts began recruiting for a few new Book Lovers, and I, after some blatant cookie-shaped bribery, agreed to join their ranks. Before anyone gets any ideas, I should warn you, Susi is a cookie-tease. I was taunted with cookies but have yet to receive any. Liberté, égalité, petits gâteaux!
The above blurb greatly enticed me. Edward sounded like my kind of guy. Anyone who has spent 30 minutes trying to navigate one of those bloody voice-controlled phone-routing systems can see the merit in destroying the world.
The book opens with my least favorite genre trope – fridging the ladies (What? Does that last comment make no sense to you? You mean you didn’t spend your freshman year of college reading up on feminist analysis of genre fiction? Just me? Okay then. Well, then, check out TVTropes if you would like some background insight into my immediate irritation). Edward’s sister died before the book began, and now Edward hates the world with a whiny emo passion. Her death motivates Edward to start out on a passive-aggressive killing spree.
Step 1: Create an undead servant.
Step 2: Whine incessantly when your general uselessness comes around to bite you in the ass.
Step 3: Repeat Step 2, ad nauseum, until the readers start cheering for the Big Bad to kill you. (SPOILER ALERT: He lives.)
Edward started off with potential. He was angry and lashing out. Lurking in graveyards, dabbling in dark magic, making skull-bongs (Okay, the last one didn’t happen. He’s not that resourceful). But Edward does not live up to his potential. He is a 24-year-old man who interacts with the world as though he’s 15. And for some inexplicable reason, the world encourages him in this delusion.
That is not the stuff heroes are made of. It’s not even the stuff anti-heroes are made of.
This leads me to my main problem with Casting Shadows. Inconsistency. Is Edward a teenager trapped in a coming-of-age story? Is he a psychopath forced to embrace his hidden heroic roots? Is he an everyman embarking on an heroic quest? The author can’t seem to decide how to portray Edward, so he vacillates widely between the three narratives. Which is extremely frustrating. Just when I find Edward mildly palatable, he switches tracks again and I start rooting for the enemy. Or for Edward to be a Darwin-award contender. He’s pretty useless. It could happen.
So why did I keep reading? It’s not as though The Book Lovers tied me to a chair with my eyelids taped open, forcing me to KEEP READING until the bitter end. (Or DID they?)
Vincent, the aforementioned undead servant, is easily the best part of the entire book. His entrance is awesome. He verbally bitch-slaps Edward into place on more than one occasion. And frankly? He’s fascinating. His exact nature is not specifically defined, though we quickly learn that he has been bound to various magical practitioners throughout time. His essence remains the same in each incarnation, but the process of bonding with his summoner/Master changes his personality. What effect did Edward have on him? Was Vincent 1000 times more awesome when not weighed down with melodrama? Inquiring minds want to know!
We even get to see Vincent interact with a former Summoner – and let’s just say, dude has some issues with her. I want to read a chronicle of Vincent’s life, with a particular focus on how his relationship with Baba Yaga flamed out. I bet it was epic.
Casting Shadows is a first novel, with a lot of amazing potential, and an engrossing supporting cast. (Did I mention Michael? He’s hilarious.) J. Kelley Anderson has some fantastically warped ideas rattling around in his brain, there was just a problem with execution. I’ll definitely give him another try.
As for the rest of you, if your favorite Harry Potter book was #5 (you know, the one where Harry spent the whole time emoting about how hard it was to be him and how no one understood his PAIN), then Casting Shadows is the book for you. There is some great action in there, and the beginnings of a very interesting world.
I give Casting Shadows 2 stars.
***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.