Sunday, February 9, 2014

Shadows of Ghosts

Shadows of Ghosts carries readers to Enara, a kingdom at war with itself, where for centuries centaurs have been treated like animals because of their horse-like lower bodies; they’ve been forced to work as slaves in the southern agricultural provinces, and have been bought and sold like livestock. But a strong abolitionist faction has convinced many that centaurs’ human torsos, heads, and intellectual abilities make them humans, who should be liberated from slavery and granted the same rights as any other person. After four years of being forced to live in a remote village and having to keep his real identity a secret, Cal Lanshire, days away from his thirteenth birthday, is given the best birthday present he can imagine. He is told the war is almost over and he will soon be allowed to return home. But then an old acquaintance unexpectedly arrives with news that changes everything. Cal’s father, the king, has been assassinated. Suddenly the outcome of the war and the very fate of the kingdom depend upon Cal being able to reach the capital where he will take his father’s place. With only his crafty best friend by his side and an escaped centaur to guide him, can Cal make it through the enchanted, hostile wilderness, past the assassins sent to kill him, and back to the capital before it’s too late?

Beth says 2 Stars...
This book has a really interesting premise, especially with the war over centaur slaves.  However, basically everything went downhill from the idea. Haucke uses a heavy hand with similarities to the US Civil War; to the point where the king is assassinated by an actor with southern sympathies while attending a play.  The southern states have left the rest of the kingdom because they want to keep their centaur slaves (condescendingly called "naggies").  I will go ahead and say that my opinions are probably colored by having just watched the movie 12 Years A Slave, which is an astounding and heartbreaking portrayal of slavery.  In comparison, this novel felt cheap and far too simplistic.  The former centaur slave's tale of escape is as cliche as it could be without any emotional power.  I think I could have forgiven some of the flaws if the story actually made me feel something, but I had no emotional response to anything in the novel.

I also had a major problem with the characters; they were so flat.  I got no depth from any of them, not even the intrepid prince Cal.  Cal constantly had these"bad feelings" about things that served to warn him of whatever danger might be around.  However, we received no explanation for his gut knowledge that kept being casually mentioned whenever something would go wrong.  Not only that, but the secondary characters also lacked complexity.  The madman at least managed to tell his story in a truly crazy way, but I'm not entirely sure how much of that was intended.  For me to really enjoy a novel I have to form some sort of connection with one of the characters, but none of them were deep enough for me to do that.  I also felt an almost complete lack of female characters.  We met one woman in the course of the action and a few others in the course of major characters' flashbacks, but none of them were given their own subplots or even lasted more than a chapter.  Where were the interesting females (because we could have had an awesome lady centaur)?

Overall I'd give this book a pass.  Although the concept is really cool, the execution fails constantly.  The plot itself isn't bad, but so much more could have been done.
ebook from publisher


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