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Gregory Frost – Shadowbridge

March 7, 2009

16. Shadowbridge by Gregory Frost (2008)
Shadowbridge, Book 1

Read By: Lauren Davis
Length: 11h 46m (272 pages)

Genre: Fantasy

Started: 25 January 2009
Finished: 09 February 2009

A world without land,
Stories within more stories,
and gifts from the gods.

Summary: The world of Shadowbridge is a world unlike any other. It’s a world built on an ocean, where vast bridges connect far-flung spiraling towers, and tiny islands underneath the spans are the only land most people ever see. But more than that, Shadowbridge is a world of dreams, of sea dragons and fox-faced tricksters, of capricious gods visiting their gifts upon unsuspecting mortals. And most of all, Shadowbridge is a world of stories.

Leodora is a collector of those stories, a sixteen-year-old orphan who has fled from the abusive care of her uncle and the tiny village in which she grew up, onto the more cosmopolitan world of the spans. Following in her father Bardsham’s footsteps (but disguised as a boy), she makes her living as a shadow puppeteer, telling the stories of the spans. Acting as her agent and guide is Soter, a drunken old man who used to perform the same office for Bardsham. Soter is haunted by Leodora’s family’s past, a legacy that he hopes to keep secret from the girl, even as her talent begins to outstrip even her father’s. Rounding out their small traveling troupe is Diverus, another orphan who has been god-touched. Born an idiot, left as a sacrifice to the gods, he was gifted with the ability to play any music upon any instrument… although gifts from the gods are not always blessings, and seldom come without a price.

Review: Shadowbridge is a world of stories, and Shadowbridge is also a novel of stories. There’s a central story running throughout — of Leodora and her companions traveling the spans — but there are major digressions to tell the back stories of Leodora and of Diverus, and sprinkled throughout are the stories of Shadowbridge that Leodora collects and performs. It’s a format similar to Megan Whalen Turner’s The Thief, but even more so, and it works exceptionally well to weave together a feeling of the world, its inhabitants, and their mythos. Shadowbridge is a unique, imaginative, and highly textured world, and I found Gregory Frost’s writing to be thoroughly transporting. However, for readers who prefer a more linear approach to storytelling, it might come off feeling fragmented.

The only real issue I had with this book is that it doesn’t tell a complete story. I don’t know what went into the decision to publish Shadowbridge and its sequel, Lord Tophet, as two separate (albeit relatively short) books instead of one complete manuscript. Whatever the reason, however, it leaves Shadowbridge feeling somewhat incomplete; it spends all of its time doing character introduction and worldbuilding, and seems content to leave almost all of the main plot for the sequel. That’s not to say that it isn’t well-written, or compelling, or interesting — indeed, I was thoroughly hooked by the story from the beginning, and frequently found myself willingly doing household chores I’d been neglecting, just so I could have the opportunity to listen to more of Shadowbridge. However, neither piece of the duology can stand on its own as a complete work, so the decision to split it in two feels artificial and leaves a trace of a bad taste in my mouth.

I was also somewhat distracted by the narrator’s voice, at least initially. Lauren Davis is a good narrator overall, and good with keeping voices consistent and recognizable, but she just sounds so young. I don’t know how old she actually is, and her voice is a good fit for sixteen-year-old Leodora, but it was rather disconcerting to hear a voice that normally narrates children’s and mid-grade books so casually discussing violence, cruelty, and sex.

All in all, though, I really enjoyed Shadowbridge, and will certainly be listening to Lord Tophet, as well as keeping an eye out for more of Frost’s novels in the future. 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Recommendation: I’d recommend Shadowbridge to all fantasy fans, but particularly those who like the story-within-a-story format, those who enjoy legends and fairy tales, those who are interested in mythology and enjoy stories of gods interacting with mortals, and most of all, to those who have the second book on hand (or enough Audible credits to download it) immediately upon finishing the first.

This review was originally published at http://www.sfsite.com.

This Review on LibraryThing | This Book on LibraryThing | Amazon | Audible

Links: Gregory Frost’s Home Page, Interview with Gregory Frost at Omnivoracious

Other Reviews: Fantasy Book Critic, OF Blog of the Fallen
Have you reviewed this book? Leave a comment with the link and I’ll add it in.

First Line: The first time Leodora spoke to a god, she had climbed to the top of the bridge tower and she was masked.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. March 7, 2009 5:34 pm

    Oooh, stories within stories. Want! I’ll make sure to get it along with the sequel, though.

  2. March 8, 2009 9:38 am

    Nymeth – I do really enjoy the stories-within-a-story format, although I’m having a hard time coming up with other examples…

  3. March 9, 2009 1:15 pm

    I read one his short stories in an anthology last year and reviewed it recently. It was one of the best!

  4. March 13, 2009 11:37 am

    i thought it seemed interesting when i first saw it, but your review made me want to get this book for sure! (i should wait until i could get both books though :D)

  5. March 15, 2009 12:20 am

    Ladytink – I hadn’t heard of Frost before, but he’s actually quite prolific. I’m going to have to try to find more of his stuff!

    marineko – Definitely wait until you can get both, and then grab them!

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