Reviews

Shadowland, by Peter Straub

richtate's review

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3.0

Shadowland resembles something that is more a fantasy/fairytale hybrid than any piece of horror. Straub weaves an interesting tale around The Brothers Grimm mythology that is both suspenseful and at times heart wrenching.

This is my second Straub title and much like Ghost Story I found it to be a good read and a book I enjoyed but nothing amazing. It is very interesting how he chooses weave his mythos around many timeless classics that surely helped to influence the genres he touches upon.

If you’re looking for a modern fairytale then Shadowland will fit the bill. Just don’t expect to be floored at the end of the novel.

myweereads's review against another edition

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4.0

“What we do here is physiologically impossible. So we must train the body to accept the impossible, and then it will become possible.”

Shadowland by Peter Straub is the coming of age story of Tom and Del who meet at a prestigious boarding school.

The structure of the book splits it into two main parts. The first being the time spent at the boarding school and the events which take place there setting up the creepy and eerie vision of what Shadowland is about and then there is the second part set at Coleman Collins home. A house made of secret doorways and traps which lure the boys to learn about real magic and what’s really happing in Shadowland.

Initially I thought this would be a horror novel but the further I read the more it was obvious its a fantasy one with horror elements. It’s been said that you could compare it slightly to Stephen King’s IT and on some level I suppose you could as the similar factor of Shadowland being of magic, the beings that dwell there, give off that familiar feeling. This book was written in 1980, where the idea of young magicians finding each other to then go on to defeat a sorcerer was fairly new.

The imagery was quite gruesome and shocking on a few occasions. There is a specific badger scene which had me quite surprised, some of the scenes that take place in Shadowland felt like you were on some kind of a trip. Those elements were well written. The first part of the book gave a good build up however it felt like it lagged on more than one occasion. There’s no doubt that the fantasy themes are heavily present throughout, I wouldn’t go as far as saying it was terrifying, this could also be because I’ve read it as an adult, had I read it in my teens maybe I would have felt differently.

The book has received some harsh criticism over not being as iconic as Ghost Story (which i’ve yet to read), I wouldn’t say its a bad novel at all, it was a good read, and if I had to score it out of 5 I would give it a 3.75.

rjdey's review against another edition

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adventurous dark mysterious medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? No
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

4.5

scarletcarnival's review against another edition

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5.0

Shadowland is the last book read for 2013. It’s an old favorite I read back in high school for the first time and absorbed as much of my own personal view of the universe as anything in the Dune series.

A story of two boys—no, three boys—two men and a girl. It’s almost classic in a sense. It’s a story that goes through the difference between destiny and fate, magic and illusion, power and luck. There is a lot of depth to the story. In so many ways, I want to say this is a child’s story. But it’s an adult story even though the main characters are teens no older than my own son.

Shadowland takes a ride into the imagination that is dark and seductive. It’s not the cute and cuddly magician’s training of Harry Potter. It is tough as a crucifixion and genuine as first love. Highly recommended.

jesterror's review

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adventurous emotional funny reflective
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

4.5

crowyhead's review

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5.0

This is one of my favorite of Peter Straub's novels. It's a creepy take on the idea of the [b:Sorcerer's Apprentice|1524173|The Sorcerer in the North (Ranger's Apprentice, #5)|John Flanagan|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1327918728s/1524173.jpg|6627897] -- only in this case, the sorcerer may be more dangerous than anything his apprentice can cook up. There are loads of references to fairy tales here, which are fun to try to place, and I love the way that Straub makes it difficult to figure out what's real magic and what's just sleight of hand.

verkisto's review

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4.0

Shadowland was the third in the books I enjoyed so much as a kid, but when I read as an adult, I realized that this book wasn't ever really about looking back on the idylls of youth. In fact, there wasn't even much of a pretense of putting anything idyllic in this novel at all. The only redeeming quality about childhood from the book was the wide-eyed innocence of Del (which was destroyed by the climactic scene in the novel), and the friendship between him and Tom (which was barely a friendship at all, and more of a dependent relationship on Del's part). But the magic, the imagery, and the overall premise of the novel had a profound effect on me back in high school. Amazingly, it held up well over the past 20-ish years, but I think I appreciate it now for different reasons.

The entire novel is about the two main characters — Del Nightingale and Tom Flanagan — who are both amateur magicians, and who spend one summer with Del's uncle, who is a famous and very eccentric magician. The plot starts at their boarding school, which seems like something straight out of David Copperfield, and the horrible things that happened to both characters. From there, it shifts to Del's uncle’s estate — Shadowland — but what they realize when they get there is that the boarding school had been a part of Shadowland that year, too, and that all of the horrible events were all about Coleman, Del's uncle, wanting to bring them both to his side of magic. Real magic.

In the first half of the novel, set at the boarding school, a lot of attention is paid to an English course where the instructor is fascinated with fairy tales. The fairy tales are actually the core of the theme of the book, as Straub takes a handful of fairy tales and weaves them together to form the backdrop of the plot. It explains a lot about the tone of the novel — it’s very dark and bleak, with an ending that can hardly be classified as "happy" — but it gives the story a nice depth that I hadn't recognized before. I’d like to say that I would have figured this out without having to read about it Straub's new introduction to the latest printing of the book, but who knows? I read it first, and then I started looking for those points.

I remember being fascinated with the character of Rose Armstrong, a live-in helper at Shadowland who is about the same age as Tom and Del, when I was younger, and I still found her to be a fascinating character, though for different reasons. She becomes involved with Tom, all while Del thinks she's still agog over him, and their three-way relationship takes on a life of its own once all three of them meet. But this time I noticed more how much of a tortured character she was, and understood more the mystery of her origins. Her foolishness and naivete grew a little tiresome, but understanding what her origins were, and what drove her motivations, explained away a lot of her strange behavior. But she still had an odd attraction that went further than her relationship with Tom and Del, and she’s a character that lingers long after you finish the book.

I don’t think the book is perfect — there was at least one major plot point that I felt needed to be explained away to really buy the entire story — but it’s still a damn fine book by a damn fine writer. I find it very curious that, during this period of reminiscence, Simmons' book improved, King's slid back a bit, and Straub's stayed about the same, but for different reasons. I hesitate to call it maturity that’s affected how I view the novels, but it has been about 20 years since I read some of these books, and I suppose I did have to grow up some in that span of time. I highly recommend this novel to any fans of horror, dark fantasy, or even urban fantasy.

natesux's review

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i’m scared of magicians 

johnnyharley's review

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4.0

I loved this book. It reminded me a bit of Ray Bradbury’s stories about kids and magicians. To be honest I loved Straub’s book more than Bradbury’s. I enjoyed it both as a book and as an audiobook (narrated by William Dufris). I was a little embarrassed with a couple of final chapters but otherwise Peter Straub does great.

kc5thelement's review

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3.0

I first read this book in high school and it profoundly affected teenaged me. Not as gripping as I remember, but still a solid read and one of Straub's more accessible offerings.