Half-Sick of Shadows

“Even the most beautiful things are a mirror’s reflection away from ugliness.”

David Logan

There were several reasons why I bought this book.

The first reason was the title. “I am half-sick of shadows” is one of my favourite lines of poetry ever.

The second, and more pressing, reason, was the little blue circle on the front that says “Winner of the Terry Pratchett Prize”. To be honest, from that point on the blurb could have said anything and I still would have bought it.

This only proves that I have been the victim of a cunning marketing trick (although Half-Sick of Shadows did actually win the Terry Pratchett Prize), because the book did not exactly live up to its promise. Edward and Sophia are twins, living in an ancient and tumbledown house called the Manse with their mother, hyper-religious father and two brothers. On the day that their Granny Hazel dies, their father makes five-year-old Sophia promise never to leave the Manse, a promise which she takes rather too literally and is imprisoned in the family home for ever.

All of this is set in a world that doesn’t quite feel like our own, but for most of the novel there’s no actual evidence of this. It is, supposedly, a science-fiction novel, but this element feels a bit bolted-on and irrelevant. This was my basic problem with the book: it’s all rather underdeveloped, and there’s this constant sense that there’s going to be some twist or explanation that explains everything, a twist or explanation that never actually materialises. I got to the end of the book and just thought, “So what?”

The writing itself is undoubtedly good: Logan captures the childish, simplistic voice of a five-year-old perfectly, and the transition between this and a more mature voice (the novel takes place over several years) is well handled. And there’s the occasional twist of oddness, a sideways slant that throws you for a moment. Sadly, none of this, eventually, seemed to have any point. Or, really, that much sense. An interesting read, but ultimately disappointing.

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