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A Shadow on the Glass
by Ian Irvine

classifications: Fantasy / Heroic / Dramatic

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The advertising proof on the back of this book tells us "it is destined to become a classic in the genre."

I doubt it.

It's not a bad book; the characters are well developed, the lore and history of the worlds deep and structured. The story itself, by the final pages, is engrossing and intricate.

Irvine's style is not conducive to smooth reading, however. Poor word choice, jarring lack of chronology and occasional deus ex machina artifacts all help to detract from the experience. Each time you start to lose yourself in the story, one or other of the above arrives to remind you it's just words on a page.

This uncomfortable mixture of capable and annoying is apparent in most places you care to look. The two lead characters, are, as far as they can be, reasonably original. They are refreshingly frail on many occasions, yet othertimes, they border on the pathetic with inexplicable mood swings and ineptitude.

The plot is similarly marred. By the end of the story, once all the major players are drawn in, their plans put in motion, A Shadow on the Glass is delightfully intricate. There are no clear villians, no clear path for the heroes. It sounds, and is, tense and involving.

The preceeding sections, however, don't manage to be as gripping. Llian and Karen, the two leads, spend much of their time rentlessly pursued by tireless enemies. It should be tense and thrilling. With only a few exceptions, however, it simply involves them walking a lot. An awful lot. Way too much, in fact. Eventually, you get bored, and start wishing they would be caught so something more interesting would happen. What dangers do confront them, because of Irvine's style, create little tension. The majority of Part Two could be summarised in maybe a paragraph, without losing any tension, and little of the plot.

By the end, you will start liking the story. Not enough, unfortunately, to make up for the time wasted reading what preceeded. As an average, this ends up being purely average, with any high being neatly countered by annoying lows.

For the bored, or the completist, this is an enjoyable diversion. Those of you without time to waste won't miss anything not picking up a copy of this, however.

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