Immanion Press, 216pp, l/f p/back, Â£12.99
Reviewed by R A Bardy [@mangozoid]
In his own words (and an extended Appendix herein subtitled The Tarot of Sword-&-Sorcery) Philip Emery says The Shadow Cycles is his attempt at a redefinition of form for sword-&-sorcery [sic] in the twenty-first century, and as part of that process he has attempted to formulate and deploy a ‘new’ tarot, trying to focus on the form’s beginnings and also, potential. He spends a fair bit of time ‘dissecting’ Robert E. Howard’sÂ works, in particular the Conan tales, with a slightÂ Â nod to Tolkien’s ‘High Fantasy’ in LotR and concludes that a good combination of violence and the supernatural is potentially the ‘new’ sword-&-sorcery.
For my part, I’m really sorry, but I found a lot of it just jibber-jabber – and as if to top it off this story is so far from the worlds of either Howard or Tolkien that I think the author does a huge disservice to both, and himself.
In brief, The Shadow Cycles tells the story of five characters from different realms brought together to partake in a final apocalyptic battle against a ‘dragon’ of sorts, fought through a series of stages and it is sooo boring… really, truly, genuinely boring… The entire book feels like a first draft and in desperate need of some tighter editing in so many places. I would consider myself relatively well-read, but never in my life have I had to reach for a dictionary so many times during a single book. Words like quinquereme, tatterdemalion, porphyry, chalcedony, lazuli, sardonyx, dolerite, agate and the slightly less obscure ‘tegular’ are liberally sprinkled throughout, like some kind of stone/quartz lexicon gone mad. Every one jars considerably leading to an ultimately uncomfortable and irritating read from start to finish. Very very annoying, and impossible to recommend. Sorry.