Something is waiting in the shadows . . .



New Review by Author :: Chuck McKenzie

Shades 1 :: Shadow Dance

Sixteen year-old Nathan Maple is not having a good day: he's suffering from amnesia, unable to remember who or where he is, his disorientation compounded by the fact that light makes him fade away like a ghost. Nathan has become a Shade; existing in a state between life and death, able to use shadows as a means of instantaneous travel. Which would be pretty cool - except that there are other creatures lurking in the shadows. And Nathan - and those he loves - have become their target.

Given that Shadow Dance is specifically geared towards a Young Adult readership, I was pleasantly surprised to find Robert Hood's novel extremely adult-friendly. Certainly it suffers from none of the shortcomings apparent in other YA works, where readers are talked down to, or teenage protagonists are presented as two-dimensional caricatures who say 'Rad!' at every opportunity. Hood's protagonists are well-realised, comprising all the layers, flaws, strengths and distinctly individual characteristics one would expect in reality. The story itself is similarly complex; an involving and often frightening narrative supported by a rich background of fictional mythology.

Some fairly weighty issues are dealt with during the course of the novel, such as the importance of belonging and of family, and the nature of life and death. Refreshingly, Hood does not obviously impose his own views of how people should react to such things, but instead allows his characters to deal with, and opine on, these issues (often unsuccessfully) in their own way. It was primarily this lack of preachiness (all-too-often apparent in both adult and YA fiction) together with Hood's clear and concise writing style, that made me feel I was specifically reading a YA book. This is not to suggest that Hood's writing is facile or simplistic; rather, that his prose is extremely readable and easy to digest in a way that adult fiction is often regrettably not.

Aside from this, there is little to mark Shadow Dance as 'only' a YA novel (apart from the length of the book); certainly the novel doesn't shy away from describing the fear and violence involved in Nathan's struggle against his terrifying enemies. Nor does it avoid dealing with the results of such violence, although the level of actual gore is toned down more than might occur in an adult work.

In a nutshell, Shadow Dance is an extremely absorbing and satisfying read, which should please readers of all ages - as well as occasionally make the hairs on the back of their necks tingle! It is also the first in a series of four novels (collectively titled Shades), and I for one am very much looking forward to reading the remaining books in the series.

2001, Chuck McKenzie

Robert Hood's Shades :: Four Books Now Released!


Released Robert Hood's SHADES
June 2001 Shades 1 :: Shadow Dance
July 2001 Shades 2 :: Night Beast
August 2001 Shades 3 :: Ancient Light
September 2001 Shades 4 ::Black Sun Rising



  Stay tuned for news on author appearances and signings.
  Check out the Robert Hood site for information on other books and stories.
  Shades is published by Hodder Headline Australia



Shadow Dance
Night Beast
Ancient Light
Black Sun Rising

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