Thursday, August 11, 2011

The Shadow Hunt

he Shadow Hunt has been haunting me all week.  My sister, whom I adore, was visiting so I obviously wanted to spend as much time with her as possible.  There were birthday celebrations and much fun to partake of.  And stupid me started reading this book that I couldn't finish as quickly as I would have liked.  I was reading it all week, a chapter here and a chapter there.  It was such a relief to sit down and be able to finish it this afternoon.  This is exactly the sort of historical fantasy I love.
Synopsis (From Goodreads):
Wolf is on the run—from the oppressive monastery where he was raised, from the ghosts and demons that haunt the windswept moors of Devil's Edge, and from the shadows in the landscape that resemble the Devil himself. When Wolf rescues a strange child on Devil's Edge, he takes her to a grand castle hoping to win the favor of its ruler. There he strikes up an unlikely friendship with a girl named Nest, and he thinks he's finally found a place to call home. Wolf is determined to fit in, but not everything is as it seems at the castle. Dark forces are conspiring against Wolf and Nest, and a sinister enemy is looming closer than they could ever realize. With lies masquerading as reality, will Wolf and Nest learn who they can trust . . . before it's too late?

The Shadow Hunt is exactly my kind of book, good historical fiction with fantasy woven seamlessly into the story, reminiscent of  The Perilous Gard (my review) and The Coming of the Dragon (my review).  The historical setting of the book is excellently portrayed.  The dirt, grime, drudgery, and dynamics of medieval life are truthfully displayed.  The fantasy elements come from Anglo-Welsh folklore and include a hearth hob, a well spirit, and the elfkind (or fay).  I loved how Langrish demonstrated through this the tension between (and combining of)  the old folklore and the newer Christianity that was very prevalent during this period.  I also appreciated how both traditions had strengths and weaknesses, good and evil in them.

The characters in the book were easy to love, even the flawed ones.  Wolf and Nest are both wonderful protagonist who captured my sympathy and had me rooting for them all the way.  The young child, Elfgift, who Wolf rescued is endearing despite her inability to talk.  All the residents of the castle were vividly portrayed.  While I was reading I really felt like I was in their world with them.  My only quibble is that there were two rather stereotypical villains.  As these two are not the main opposing force in the story it is only a very minor quibble.

The conflict of the story is one that I found interesting.  The evil is active and very real, but at the same time the evil (and good) present in human nature is also a force they must reckon with.

Katherine Langrish has some interesting pieces on her website about the story and the folklore she used.  You can find that here

My library has this shelved with the Teen books.  I would classify this as more of a middle grade level  novel, but one that can be enjoyed by a person of any age who enjoys good historical fantasy.  I will certainly be reading more of Ms. Langrish's work in the future.

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