Book: The Shadow Men

"The Shadow Men"

From Beacon Hills to Southie, historic Boston is a town of vibrant neighborhoods knit into a seamless whole. But as Jim Banks and Trix Newcomb learn in a terrifying instant, it is also a city divided–split into three separate versions of itself by a mad magician once tasked with its protection.

Jim is happily married to Jenny, with whom he has a young daughter, Holly. Trix is Jenny’s best friend, practically a member of the family–although she has secretly been in love with Jenny for years. Then Jenny and Holly inexplicably disappear–and leave behind a Boston in which they never existed. Only Jim and Trix remember them. Only Jim and Trix can bring them back.

With the help of Boston’s Oracle, and elderly woman with magical powers, Jim and Trix travel between the fractured cities, for that is where Jenny and Holly have gone. But more is at stake than one family’s happiness. If Jim and Trix should fail, the spell holding the separate Bostons apart will fail too, and the cities will reintegrate in a cataclysmic implosions. Someone, it seems, wants just that. Someone with deadly shadow men at their disposal.

The Shadow Men starts strong. Authors Christoper Golden and Tim Lebbon dive right into the premise of their novel, and our protagonists don’t wait around before taking action. And, this is a good thing, I didn’t even realize until after I finished the book that the entire story happened in just two days. Suffice to say: a lot happened, and there was no point in the novel where I paused, annoyed or otherwise, because of long pauses in action just to deliver exposition.

The clincher? The Shadow Men actually had a lot of exposition to cover. Especially since it had to establish two other Bostons existing with the one that’s supposedly in our world. But authors Golden and Lebbon are such experts at their craft that the exposition is delivered with the action–something you would think is more common in action novels, especially popular ones, but you’d be surprised.

But The Shadow Men‘s strength in delivering the action is also its one weakness. With so much happening, there were times that I had to go back and reread certain passages because I was starting to get confused. That, and there were moments when the action felt repetitive. Get caught. Run. Rinse, and repeat.

Aside from (just) one instance of this though, The Shadow Men is a stellar book. It ranks as my second favorite Hidden Cities novel, following the London-based Mind the Gap. It pulls no punches, never dilly-dallying when it comes to hitting the plot points, which had the effect of making readers (me, specifically) feel the adrenaline coursing through the characters–leaving us breathless.

I use the term “summer blockbuster movie” a lot when it comes to the I Am Number Four books, because of its penchant to prioritize action over character development and still remaining very entertaining. Following this logic, The Shadow Men would be something akin to an “epic movie” in which the action serves to make the viewers’ pulses race, as much as it pushes the characters to develop.

The Shadow Men came out in 2011. No other Hidden Cities book came out again after this. I hope that it’s because Golden and Lebbon are still looking for the perfect city and the perfect story to continue their series, and not because the publishers don’t want another one. Because I want another one.

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book: mind the gap

"mind the gap" by christopher golden, tim lebbonalways assume that there’s someone after you.

MIND THE GAP is the first story of the hidden cities series, and it’s a phenomenal start for the series. i mentioned in a previous post that i started the series reading the second book, THE MAP OF MOMENTS, and i never found that novel lacking. it never needed to explain what the hidden cities conceit was.

but reading MIND THE GAP? it clears everything up so much. the book really is a beginning.

yes, i’ve mentioned before that the two novels that followed, the aforementioned MAP OF MOMENTS and CHAMBER OF TEN, can stand on their own. but reading MIND THE GAP has put things in perspective. this is where everything begins, where the conceit of the hidden cities is explained, and so i must now say that it’s very important to read this book before you read the other two.

not reading this book doesn’t make reading the others not-enjoyable. but it would certainly clear up any questions you might have when you start the other books.

now, MIND THE GAP is the story of jasmine towne. a teenaged girl who comes home one day to find her mother murdered with one message written in her blood: jazz hide forever. so what’s a girl to do? run and hide, of course.

we, the readers, join her as she travels the underground world of london, discovering hidden secrets in the tunnels of london’s tube system. and as she uncovers these secrets, she also begins to find out that her mother’s paranoia are very much well-founded.

christopher golden and tim lebbon have managed to create an intricate world and a colorful past to create the hidden cities series. and while i didn’t enjoy CHAMBER OF TEN as much, MIND THE GAP just gave me reason to look forward to the fourth hidden cities novel, when it does come out.

the chamber of ten

"the chamber of ten" by christopher golden and tim lebbonmy first exposure to christopher golden was through media tie-in books of BUFFY, THE VAMPIRE SLAYER and ANGEL. but it wasn’t until THE LOST SLAYER series that i actually started actively looking for other christopher golden books.

the first book i found was STRANGEWOOD–but it was not the first book of him i’ve read. of course, discounting the fact that i’ve read the media tie-in books. STRANGEWOOD was also my introduction into the harsh life of being a christopher golden fan in the philippines–of how hard it is to look for books by him in this country.

thank goodness for FULLY BOOKED.

of course, that’s a story for another day. for now, i will talk about the latest release from christopher golden and tim lebbon: THE CHAMBER OF TEN.

THE CHAMBER OF TEN is the third book of the HIDDEN CITIES series, but each book stands alone on its own. which is a good thing, since i’ve yet to find a copy of the first book.

a little backgrounder: the HIDDEN CITIES series of books all rely on cities around the world that are rich in culture, and have histories of magic. the first one was set in london, the second in new orleans, and THE CHAMBER OF TEN was set in venice.

i admit to being caught a little off-guard when i started reading this particular book. i guess it’s because i’ve been reading a lot of non-fantasy books lately (and while FEED is fantastical, it was given a biography-like treatment). in any case, the first chapter gave me a bit of a jolt.

one character is a mind-reader. or a psychic. anyway you want to put it, he’s sensitive to psychic links. and the character tries to write it off as something that can be scientifically proven (in the second or third chapter), but you know immediately it’s not science-based. it’s magic.

so that was a little jarring how another character just mentions it in passing in ther first chapter.

that aside though, christopher golden (and tim lebbon) definitely delivers another page-turning adventure.

i’ve always been amazed at how two authors can co-write and produce one good book. GOOD OMENS by neil gaiman and terry pratchett certainly comes to mind when speaking of great books that were collaborated on. and in the two HIDDEN CITIES books i’ve read, i’ve never been able to distinguish between christopher golden and tim lebbon.

granted, i’ve yet to read a book by the latter. but i like to think that i have a grasp of christopher golden’s voice as a writer, having read most of the books he’s published (through thorough combing of many bookstores in the city). so i really admire how the two were able to spin THE CHAMBER OF TEN and make it seem as if only one person was telling the story.

but would i recommend this book? to those who are into mysteries and fantasy, yes. but unlike STRANGEWOOD which i recommended to everyone i know (i still do, actually), i don’t think THE CHAMBER OF TEN is for everyone.