Last time I read a much-hyped fantasy debut by a promising up-and-coming talent it was the highly disappointing and, at least to me, overrated Eragon by teenager Christopher Paolini. So, even though it came with much less fanfare, I was admittedly skeptical about trying out The Tower of Shadows, another fantasy debut by a young wunderkind.
Fortunately college student Drew C. Bowling, who started his novel in high school, is a much more accomplished writer than Paolini was, and delivers an impressive first offering.
For fantasy aficionados, I doubt that The Tower of Shadows is high on your reading list because at a glance, everything about the book screams GENERIC, and with characters that include a world-weary mercenary, an apprentice wizard, assassins, a knight, evil sorcerers, and adolescents who hunger for adventure from their mundane lives, not to mention a plot for revenge that features a magical dagger, dragons, pirates and resurrecting demons, there’s really little to dispel that notion.
Yet, there’s just something about The Tower of Shadows that I couldn’t help but like. Perhaps it’s the writing, which may show its inexperience with shallow characterization, lack of world-building/mythos and the occasional inconsistency, but for the most part Drew reminds me of a young Terry Brooks with exhilarating pacing, nonstop thrills, and prose that may seem sparse, yet is descriptive and graceful. Or it could be the heroes and heroine who may be as formulaic as they come, nevertheless are likeable and you can’t help but root for them. Then again, it could be the overall tone of the book, which evokes an undeniable childlike wonder of a fairy tale world where good triumphs over evil no matter the odds.
More likely, it’s a combination of all these things and the fact that The Tower of Shadows doesn’t try to be anything than what it is, an uncomplicated, unpretentious, action-packed, fun-filled fantasy romp that reads quickly (running around 300 pages) and should appeal to readers young and old.
Ultimately, The Tower of Shadows is a flawed, yet promising start by a talented young writer in Drew C. Bowling who should only improve with time and experience. So keep an eye out for the sequel, which Drew is currently writing while finishing up college and give the ‘youngster’ a chance if you haven’t yet already…