The Shadow Things
Source: Review copy from the publisher.
Book Description from Back Cover:
The Legions have left the province of Britain and the Western Roman Empire has dissolved into chaos. With the world plunged into darkness, paganism and superstition are as rampant as ever. In the Down country of southern Britain, young Indi has grown up knowing nothing more than his gods of horses and thunder; so when a man from across the sea comes preaching a single God slain on a cross, Indi must choose between his gods or the one God and face the consequences of his decision.
The Shadow Things is a Christian historical novel set in southern Britain, apparently sometime in the late 5th century. There was a nice level of setting and everyday historical detail to bring the story alive in my imagination.
The main focus of the story was about a few members of a pagan tribe choosing to follow Christ and the conflict between them and those in the tribe who still followed the pagan ways. The story contained a number of discussions about God and how Christ can give salvation, but they flowed naturally from the story. There was a statement made by a recent convert on page 71 about what becoming "children of God" meant that sounded a bit mixed with pagan ideas, but otherwise the theology was standard.
The characters were interesting and struggled realistically with whether or not to follow Christ. However, after they made that decision, time passed so quickly that we didn't really get to see their struggle to live in a truly Christian way. They just lived that way with occasional conversations with each other about "it's hard." The portrayal of living under persecution was nicely done, though, and added tension to the relationship conflicts. However, I agree with the reviewer who said that the story "ended the way I wanted it end, but not exactly the way I thought it should end." You'll have to read the story to find out what that means. :)
There was no bad language or graphic sex. Overall, I'd recommend this enjoyable historical novel.
If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.
Excerpt from Chapter One
There was a strong, heavy scent of heather in the air, and a purple ranking of clouds above. These were the clear signs of a summer thunderstorm. The ponies in the bramble pens were anxious. There was not a breath of wind anywhere over the Downs; the oak-boughs down the southward slopes hung limply and the turf was laid low. Lightning flicked its stallion-tails of light far away over the hills. But the rain did not come; it was as though the clouds were holding their breath; it made one light-headed and oppressed at once.
Indi squatted in a doorway, one leg outstretched over the alert form of a hound. Both sets of eyes were upturned to the heavy sky. The hound was brindled like a wolf, and was shaped like the wild canine so much that his ancestry was very clear. The young man shifted out of the dun shadows into the dim grey of the early twilight; his features could be seen as sharp and stern, though still clinging to its boyhood. The brows sloped downward over the dark golden eyes and the thin lips curled back in a low whistle.
“Eh, looks like the first of the summer’s storms, what say you, Thern?” he poked the hound.
The scraggly dog turned its eyes from the sky and beat its tail once on the flat, dusty ground. It yawned, snapping it jaws together.
Indi scratched the head that was thrust near him and surveyed the dun-yard of his father’s house. The timber-and-gravel steps ran down before him across the short level space of dirt before the houseplace. They went between the retainers’ quarters where his father’s friends and weapon-hounds ate and slept. Then the steps stopped at the wide court at the foot of the hill, around which was set the rest of the steading: the servants’ houses, the workers’ houses, the byres, the kennels. Usually it was very busy, especially around suppertime when the young men would be riding in after leaving the mare-guard on the hills, and the womenfolk would be going about making the meal, and the children would be screaming and the dogs barking.
But not this evening. It was very quiet this evening, and Indi felt his hackles rise as they always did with the coming of the first summer storms. There was always something very alive about the thunderstorm. Indi shivered and pulled back into the shadows of the doorway, fearful lest the Gods of Thunder become angry with him—though what he might have done against them, he did not know. The thunder, he knew, was the pounding hooves of Tir, Taranis’ horse, and the lightning was the spark of the thunder-God’s spear as it rent the heavens. The rain from the thunderstorms was the weeping of the many Taranis had wounded, among them his children and wife, Ancasta.
Twisting his head, Indi looked up at the lintel of the houseplace and saw the ash-white form of Tir carved into the wood. It was a sign of blessing for the household: all under the sign of Tir should be strong and swift and fruitful, both the men and the women, and the horses and sheep on which the Downspeople made their livelihood.
But the Gods were erratic. Even now, across the dun sprawling at his feet with its huddles of women about the doorways and darting bodies of youngsters, Indi could see the wavering blue smudge of smoke rising into the heavy air as the priests burned sacrifices to the Gods of Thunder in the hopes to appease them, and he knew it would do as much to stop the charge of Tir as a bramble-fence would stop the flood of the sea.
“You feel it also, the coming of the storm?” a voice suddenly spoke above Indi.
Turning around, the young man looked up at his mother. She was very straight and tall, and showed no physical signs that she had borne her noble husband a son and two daughters. Apart from her wise and weathered face, she looked very like a girl who had not been wed to a man. Her eyes were very deep and as green as the sea with tints of gold in them; at present, they were fixed on the dark rows of clouds in the west.
“Yes, Mother, I feel it over-strongly.” Indi got to his feet and stood by her. Though she was tall, he was taller. His frame nearly filled the doorway, and he had to turn aside to let her see around him. His ruddy hair came down to his tattooed shoulders, but his face was still clean as a boy’s; he was still too young to have much of a beard. In a moment he spoke again. “But, it is in my heart that you feel something else.”
Read more from chapter one.