Enjoying The Chamber of Ten, we were eager to get a chance to read the newest effort from the writing team of Christopher Golden and Tim Lebbon, The Shadow Men. And the fact the work, part of the Hidden Cities series, is set entirely in Boston our interest was doubly piqued.
And The Shadow Men is a little bit of a occult love letter and travelogue to the city known as the Hub of the Universe, sure to please locals or lovers of this great city.
The Shadow Men is our Boston, the place of pubs, eateries, trendy boutiques and copious amounts of history. Yes, the history of Boston, America’s first metropolis, runs through our veins and in The Shadow Men it takes on mythic qualities. This supernatural pulse that courses along the Freedom Trail, through Copp’s Hill Burial Ground and under the cobblestone wetted by the blood of patriots create the perfect creative caldron for The Shadow Men.
Boston as spine for this supernatural story is its best attribute.
The Shadow Men is about artist Jim Banks who is awakened by strange images of Bostons surreal and unknown. Of course he commits them to canvas in an effort to understand this strange inspiration. Hours after his latest nightmare painting he suddenly realizes his beloved wife, Jenny, and daughter Holly have vanished. Not from Boston, but apparently their world.
Questioning his mental stability, Jim seeks aid from Jenny’s long time friend, Trixie Newcomb. The two recognize each other. Everyone else in Jim’s sphere, that had a connection to Jenny, is no longer part of his reality. His friends are different, they question what is wrong with Jim. He was never married and never had a child.
Jim and Trixie struggle to come to grips with this world without their Jenny and Holly, until Trixie pulls on a long forgotten mystical asset- The Oracle of Boston. From there we are plunged into a world of splintered realities, black magic, Wraiths, shadow realms and provincialism gone extreme.
We’ll yank the reigns on the details there because from this point on it’ll get spoilerific.
Now, we have two main characters, each pursuing the same goal- rescuing Jenny and Holly. Each wanting to save Jenny and Holly, but both coming at this rescue with possible different motives.
Jim in a way started out as a sort of artistic weakling who claimed undying love for his wife and daughter, but he demonstrated less than heroic efforts for a bulk of the novel. More like a lost puppy than charge through plate glass hero. Yet through each harrowing brush with death and strange occurrence, Jim seems to find that backbone and unyielding need to save his wife and daughter. In the end, he becomes a minor action hero with a brush and pallet instead of pistol and rapier.
Trixie, however, we did not take so kindly to. She was so overbearing a character, her desire to see Jenny saved seemed more than a little selfish. You see Trixie loved Jenny, like REALLY loved Jenny. She wanted Jenny to be hers and doubted if she truly left that desire behind.
Sure there was a bond forged by adversity between Jim and Trixie, but there was an off-note with the duo and at times it felt beyond compassionate for lost loves, drifting towards selfish.
Our ardor remains for the creative duo of Golden and Lebbon, showing that you can like a story, but you don’t have to love all its characters.
The Shadow Men by Christopher Golden and Tim Lebbon was purchased for review by the Boston Book Bums