Casting Shadows by J. Kelley Anderson. Book review

Casting ShadowsCASTING SHADOWS by J. Kelley Anderson, World Castle Publishing, p/b, £8.19,

Reviewed by David Brzeski

One of the advantages to becoming known as a reviewer is that you soon start to get offered review copies of lots of books you know you want to read, but maybe can’t afford. That’s great, but…

When I first started as a reviewer for the BFS, no one knew who I was, so I had to make do with whatever books had been sent to the BFS reviews editor. Sometimes, this led to the discovery of a gem, by an author I’d never heard of. To my eternal shame, I’d had this particular gem in my to-be-reviewed pile for almost two years, during which I constantly passed it by in favour of other books. Sadly, it’s now out of print and no longer available from World Castle Publishing, although copies can still be found on Amazon for a reasonable price.

I wasn’t expecting much, when I started reading. There were some errors early on in the text, which led me to worry that it might be one of those badly written, barely-edited messes that seem to have flooded the market since ebooks and POD made publishing so much easier and cheaper.

As it turned out, these typos were the exception, rather than the rule. I found a few more, as I read on, but not a huge number. The book could have used one last proofing, by a new pair of eyes, but I’ve seen books from major publishers with just as many errors.

I liked the book. I liked it a lot. Edward Kelley is the reluctant hero. So reluctant, in fact, that he starts out wanting to kill everyone in the world. It’s only after following a magical ritual, which would give him the power to achieve that end, that he realises he doesn’t want to commit mass murder after all. Unfortunately for Eddy, someone else is more single-minded in their hatred of humanity.

Eddy is joined by Vincent, his magical skeleton demon servant; Officer Michael Miller, his best friend, whose facility with Anglo Saxon expletives prevents the book from being the all-ages adventure fantasy it might have otherwise been; and Emma, Eddy’s grandmother, who isn’t at all what she seems to be.

Faced with a battle for his life, and the future of the world, Eddy undertakes training in magic. This training is somewhat reminiscent of ‘The Karate Kid’, in the way he fails to see the point of the things he’s expected to do, and becomes quickly frustrated. In fact, his grandmother comes off a little like a cross between Mr Miyagi and Yoda. He’s not helped by the fact that he doesn’t entirely trust her, due to her relationship with the villain of the piece, not to mention the way she looks when viewed through his magical eye.

If I have one criticism, it’s that Anderson perhaps limits his readership. It could have been a great all-ages fantasy, except for the fact that Michael Miller is, to say the least, foul-mouthed. Don’t get me wrong, I personally have no problem with that, but it occurs to me that the strong language might serve to keep the book out of the hands of a lot of younger readers, who might really enjoy it.

I’d like to offer Mr Anderson my sincere apologies for taking so long to get around to this book. I truly hope the author finds a way to bring this book back into print with a new publisher. I can see considerable potential for sequels.