Young Adult - General
290 Pages
Reviewed on 04/29/2012
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    Book Review

Reviewed by Vered Ehsani for Readers' Favorite

These are dark times. The Romans are leaving the island of Briton, and the Saxons are taking their place, invading the land of the tribes. A false king sits on the throne, demanding allegiance. And all of that seems very far away to Cal and Usher, two boys living in a remote village. All that changes one dark night, when everything they knew and loved is destroyed. Forced to run, Cal and Usher cross a land that is in turmoil, unaware that each of them has a vital destiny to fulfill. Close behind is an implacable enemy determined to destroy a future king and willing to kill anyone who comes in the way. Assisted by a mysterious archer and a prophesy from the Druids, Cal and Usher must grow up fast, for they are about to be thrown into the midst of a battle that will determine not only their future, but that of all of Briton.

"Shadowland" is a tensely written story about the dark days before the rise of King Arthur. Flawlessly weaving history, legend and imagination, C.M. Gray spins a thrilling tale that brings to mind classic epics of days gone by. The mystery of who Cal, Usher and their archer friend are is intriguing and satisfying. Anyone interested in historical fiction around the time of the Saxon invasion, or in stories about King Arthur and his predecessors, will enjoy this great romp through a small but significant time in the turbulent history of Briton.

Natasha Jackson

Shadowland begins on midwinter’s eve when an old storyteller, Usher Vance, who “has been alive for more years than he can remember” has gathered the villagers for this year’s tale. It seems, however, that C.M. Gray’s storyteller has led a far more interesting life than the stories he chooses to tell indicate, starting the drama of the story very early, and pulling the reader in before we even know what the tale will be. And so the storyteller begins his tale, set in the Dark Ages as the world he knows is about to come crumbling down around him, quite literally. Cal and Usher witness their village being burnt to the ground and vow revenge on those who caused the damage. Throughout the story we learn how King Arthur came to be in this interesting retelling of a classic.

Filled with familiar characters you already know, you should think of Shadowland as just another episode in an Arthurian series. The things that make this fantasy tale so compelling are of course the fight scenes, of which there were plenty, the revenge, the war, and the love story. As the story flows between the Dark Ages and the present day we come to learn that Usher Vance is only remembering this part of his life as he is retelling it, his memory seemingly jogged by the presence of his old friend Cal. C.M. Gray does this time period a great service with the descriptive battle scenes, the Druid magic, and shape shifters. He brings to life the Dark Ages where one can almost feel the mist and fog wrap around the body as each day becomes a fight for survival.

Shadowland was a surprising read and quite intriguing, breathing new life into a story that has been told time and again.