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The Shadow Eater
Dominions of Irth, Book 2

Adam Lee
Avon EOS Books, 334 pages

The Shadow Eater
Adam Lee
Adam Lee is better known as A.A. Attanasio, whose work includes the series Radix Tetrad composed of Radix (1981), In Other Worlds (1984), Arc of the Dream (1986) and The Last Legends of Earth (1989). Another series, Arthor, is made up of Kingdom of the Grail (1992), The Dragon and the Unicorn (1994), Arthor (1995) and The Eagle and the Sword (1997). Single novels include Wyvern (1988), Hunting the Ghost Dancer (1991) and Solis (1994). Beastmarks (1984) is a story collection. The UK editions of The Dark Shore and The Shadow Eater appear under A.A. Attanasio's name, while the US versions use the Adam Lee pseudonym.

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A review by Robert Francis

The Shadow Eater brings us back to the worlds created by Adam Lee in The Dark Shore. In this second installment of the Dominions of Irth, the overriding theme is one of personal growth. A gnome, who had retreated from life after losing all he loved, discovers not only a purpose but a reason for his life. An aelf learns that there is much more to life than the narrow confines of kith and kin. A ghost is able to bring meaning to her former life, and in so doing finds eternal peace. And a being of awesome power learns that the strivings of we lesser beings actually do matter. All this, and they save the universe, too. Fortunately, Mr. Lee once again puts this together well, and delivers another solidly entertaining tale.

In The Shadow Eater, we become better acquainted with the particulars of the world system introduced in The Dark Shore. We get to visit many of the worlds briefly mentioned in the earlier novel. At times, this seems a little strained, almost as if Mr. Lee felt compelled to give us all a tour of his cosmos. Although he can be justifiably proud of the worlds he has created, I felt that the story could have been tighter had he cut out a few of the tour stops along the way.

Speaking of worlds, all of you who had a sneaking suspicion that Irth was somehow related to Earth should pat yourselves on the back. It turns out that our humble world, bereft of magic as it is, is just a dark shadow of the Charm-filled realm of Irth.

Anything involving shadows of Earth, I automatically compare to the Amber books by Roger Zelazny, which were more or less a literary shadow of the World of Tiers idea by Philip José Farmer. This comparison did me no good in this instance, as Mr. Lee's construct is, well, different. Or, if not different, at least explored from a different perspective. In Zelazny's Amber series or Farmer's World of Tiers, we get to see the many variations of Earth through the eyes of the powers-that-be. In Lee's story, the main characters are several steps removed from the forces that control the shape of the universe. Here, the bright, Charmed worlds like Irth are really only a dream of an incredibly powerful entity, who herself is a dream of even more powerful beings. Our Earth is a shadow of a dream of a dream. And the characters of the story are the residents of these dreams.

Although this layering of dream-based realities doesn't do much for the plot (other than to reinforce the "our frail universe is doomed unless..." scenario), for the purposes of this book it could have been handled in a more straightforward fashion. Of course, Mr. Lee may be setting the stage for something in a forthcoming Dominion of Irth book.

The entire premise of The Shadow Eater follows a being of our shadow, Charm-poor Earth, who has found his way to the Bright Realm of Irth. Even though he saves the Dominions of Irth from a horrible fate (as recounted in The Dark Shore), his mere presence in the Bright Realms threatens the very fabric of existence. Or the dream we call existence.

Mr. Lee also manages to pull Satan into the picture, but in this instance Satan is a being from the Bright Realms who managed to get exiled on our cold, dark Earth. However, it would be a mistake to equate the Bright Realms with some form of Heaven, out of which our unfortunate Satan was cast. Actually, for all their Charm, I was continually struck by how horrific life in these Bright Realms could be. On Irth, only a privileged few live a life which could be called comfortable. On the other Bright Worlds, there were many nasties just waiting to do you in. Dwarves, giants, squid monkeys, giant spiders, tiny spiders, wraiths, faeries (not the nice ones), and ether-devils waiting around each corner just to make your day a short one.

Perhaps I should have been clued in when I found that the Bright Realm nearest the Abiding Star (the source of all Charm) is called Hellsgate. Perhaps if there are any more books in this series, this will be developed further and we'll find that the Bright Realms are lit by an Infernal lamp.

As with The Dark Shore, this novel can be considered a self-contained book. Knowledge of the events in the first volume will add depth to your understanding of the story, but is in no way required to enjoy The Shadow Eater. And, as also was the case in the first volume, The Shadow Eater has no obvious lead into any potential sequels. Mr. Lee has provided himself with a richly and intricately woven novel, with many threads which could be used to create his next story.

Copyright © 1998 by Robert Francis

Robert Francis is by profession a geologist, and, perhaps due to some hidden need for symmetry, spends his spare time looking at the stars. He is married, has a son, and is proud that the entire family would rather read anything remotely resembling literature than watch Jerry Springer.

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