July 20, 2009

Book Review: "Shadowland" by Peter Straub

Title: Shadowland
Author: Peter Straub
Publisher: Berkley edition via Coward, McCann, & Geoghegan, Inc.
Published: 1980
Pages: 468
Genre: Fantasy/Horror
ISBN: 0-425-09726-9

Nearly thirty years have passed since this novel was published, but readers of this generation are just as likely to find enjoyment within its pages as previous generations. I thought it was pretty good.

Imagine Harry Potter becoming an apprentice to Voldemort. That's a stretch when applying it to this book, but it's in the ballpark.

Tom Flanagan is attending a private school for boys during the mid-1950's. He's been invited by a friend, Del, to attend the house of Del's Uncle Cole, where they can spend the summer learning the tricks of a master magician. Tom declined the first offer over the Christmas vacation, but after the death of his father and some tormenting from Skeleton, the school bully, Tom is all too happy to join Del and his uncle.

Things are not as they appear, and Tom finds himself in a winding labyrinth of deceit, treachery, and death. It falls to him to find a way out of Shadowland, and bring Del and a mysterious--yet alluring--young girl named Rose with him ... if he can. But, he'll inevitably have to contend with Cole, his cronies, and his conjurations.

I must admit that there are parts of this book that drone on longer than needed. It's certainly a fun read, but it was a book I had no trouble setting down for extended periods because certain passages lost my interest. The unraveling of Shadowland's secrets in a slow, methodical pace were entertaining, though. It was nowhere near a break-neck pace compared to similar stories, but that shouldn't be a slight against it.

This is the only novel of Peter Straub's I have read thus far, but I'm willing to bet I'll find other works that exceed this one. Ghost Story, The Talisman (with Stephen King), and The Hellfire Club sound like they have potential to outshine this work. Still, it's worth a read if you want some dark fantasy to read ... or a darker precursor to Harry Potter.

For another take on this novel, you can check out Sharpening The Tip for a review.


  1. Sounds like an interesting book. Great review!

    ~ Popin

  2. Nice review. Strangely, I've only read two or three of Straub's books. I loved Ghost Story.

  3. PopinFresh - It was a pretty good read. Can't complain.

    onipar - I'll read "Ghost Story" one of these days. I also have "The Hellfire Club" and "The Talisman" sitting on my TBR pile.

  4. I read JULIA, I think that was the title, and loved it. I agree. GHOST STORY is another great book.

  5. I haven't heard tell of Julia. What was that one about?

  6. I read it too many years ago to remember the fine details. Here's the info on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Julia-Peter-Straub/dp/0345438655

    We read it as a group read for a book club. Some members found it confusing, but I didn't. Thought it was a fantastic read. Once I started, it was hard to put down.