Book Cover
Title Jack of Shadows
Series ---
Author Roger Zelazny
Cover Art ---
Publisher Signet - 1972
First Printing 1971
Category Dystopia
Warnings None
Website ---

Main Characters

Jack, Lord of Bats, Evene

Main Elements Wizards, demons

And overpowering adventure of a world half in darkness, half in light...

The Earth no longer rotates. Sciences rules the dayside of the globe, Magic rules the World of Night. And Jack of Shadows, Shadowjack the Thief, who broke the Compact and duped the Lord of High Dudgeon; who was beheaded in Igles and rose again from the Dung Pits of Glyve; who drank the blood of a vampire and swallowed a stone - Shadowjack walks in silence and in shadows to seek vengeance upon his enemies.

Who are his foes? All who would despise him or love the Lord of Bats: Smage of the Jackass Ears, the Colonel Who Never Died, the Borshin, and Quazar, winner of the Hellgames and abductor of the voluptuous Evene. One by one, Shadowjack would seek them out and have his revenge, building his power as he goes.

And once his vengeance is obtained, he would come to terms with all others who are against him, he would unite the World of High Dudgeon, destroy the Land of Filth, and bring peace to the Shadowguard. But to accomplish all, Jack of Shadows must find Kolwynia, the Key That Was Lost...

Where do I was a bit by chance that I even read this short, but fascinatingly bizarre, book. It comes off as some kind of odd drug induced trip, and yet I truly enjoyed the journey. Zelazny has quite the imagination, both for the world he created and the characters he populated it with.

Take Jack, from the darkside where magic reigns he is able to draw powers from shadows. Or the Lord of Bats, Jack's enemy who captures him inside a crystal in the hopes of driving him mad. Or Morningstar (who may or may not in fact be a fallen angel of the same name), Jack's friend, bound to the top of a mountain waiting for a dawn that will never come to be set free. On the dayside things are a bit more mundane, with inns and universities and even computers (1970's style) and yet still just a little bit different from what we're familiar with.

The pacing of the story is a bit unusual, the first third of the book focuses on Jack losing his head...but you see darksiders have multiple lives, so he regenerates in the Dung Pits of Glyve (yes, it is exactly what it sounds like), and then has to drag himself across the wastelands of the darkside, trying to avoid his enemies and the monsters that lurk in the dark. A dark so complete there is no light to create the shadows he draws his power from (though technically the dark side of the earth is dark because the planet is blocking the light of the sun and thus is it not a giant shadow??).

After outwitting his old nemesis, we then abruptly find ourselves on the dayside, with Jack working in a university, writing a computer program to solve...well we don't know yet.

And then his return to the darkside, when he takes his revenge on all those who slighted him. At this point it was harder to sympathize with his character. Up till then you could argue that he's not human, that the women he abandonned on the dayside were merely forgotten, him who has such a long lifespan doesn't keep track of the passing of time. But he goes all out evil at this point, punishing the woman he once loved but who married another.

And then the insane conclusion, a race to the center of the Earth to kick start the rotation. One is left wondering why, and there's a cliffhanger ending.

The whole thing is like a bizarre stream of consciouness, and was apparently written without any revisions.

And yet, it was, as I said before, bizarrely fascinating and weirdly captivating. You don't find many books like this anymore. One thing I do know though, I want to read more Zelazny!

Posted: August 2016


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