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Shadowbridge
Gregory Frost
Narrated by Lauren Davis, unabridged
Audible Frontiers, 9 hours, 36 minutes

Lord Tophet: A Shadowbridge Novel
Gregory Frost
Gregory Frost is a graduate of the writing program at the University of Iowa and of the intensive Clarion Writers Workshop at Michigan State University. He attened the Sycamore Hill Writers Workshop at NC State University and, in the 90s along with Judith Berman and Richard Butner, took it over and moved it to Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania. It has since returned to the mountains of North Carolina.

Gregory Frost Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Lord Tophet
SF Site Review: Shadowbridge
SF Site Review: Shadowbridge
SF Site Review: Attack of the Jazz Giants and Other Stories
SF Site Review: Attack of the Jazz Giants and Other Stories

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Nicki Gerlach

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In this sequel to Shadowbridge, Gregory Frost returns to his world of giant bridges spanning endless swaths of ocean. He returns to the story of Leodora, a young orphan following in her father's footsteps and earning her fame as greatest living shadow puppeteer and storyteller since her father, Bardsham. He even returns to the exact moment where Shadowbridge ends, with Leodora taken to Edgeworld, the realm of the gods.

For Leodora and her companions have traveled to Colemaigne, a span that years ago hosted her father. However, it was on Colemaigne that Bardsham so angered the god Lord Tophet that he blighted the entire city and the people who dwelt there. However, as Leodora returns to the span and her fame begins to grow, she begins to attract the attention of Tophet… and while all interactions with the gods have their price, the attentions of an angry and vengeful god are no small matter.

I really don't understand the decision to make this novel a separate book from its predecessor. While I understand that publishers and booksellers are not crazy about the fat fantasy novel that is as wide as it is tall, when a single novel is broken into multiple parts, it becomes very important that each novel can stand at least somewhat on its own. Story arcs and character development can carry across a series, of course, but I still expect each of the pieces to have its own plot -- complete with beginning, middle, and end. That, I think, is where Shadowbridge and Lord Tophet break down… the first book gets all of the character development and world building, while the second gets the plot.

However, Lord Tophet doesn't get to the plot for a while. It becomes obvious relatively early on in Shadowbridge that the real mystery, the crux of the story, is the story of the past, the story of what happened to Leodora's parents. However, it's never as straightforward as that; most of the story focuses on Leodora and Diverus's adventures, with a liberal helping of the myths and legends of the spans that Leodora collects and performs. All of this is interesting and well-told, as Frost definitely has an active imagination and a knack for working very disparate elements into a richly textured world. Unfortunately, its shine started to wear off after a while, and I started to wish it would hurry up and get to the main plot that had been hinted at since the beginning of the first book. Amidst all of the tangents, we don't really get any answers until the last fifth of the book, with the result that it comes out feeling somewhat abrupt.

Lauren Davis did another fine job with the narration; she still sounds too young to me to be reading adult fiction, but by the time I got to Lord Tophet, I'd settled in and accepted her as the voice of Leodora.

Overall, while I had some problems with the pacing and structure of this book, I did enjoy listening to it, and will certainly look for more of Gregory Frost's work in the future. One caveat, however: while Shadowbridge and Lord Tophet are sold as two separate books, they are really two halves to the same story, and neither one is a stand-alone -- so make sure you have them both on hand before starting.

Copyright © 2009 Nicki Gerlach

Nicki Gerlach is a mad scientist by day and an avid reader the rest of the time.  More of her book reviews can be found at her blog, fyreflybooks.wordpress.com/.


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