by Ross Grayson
Night Shadow’s Son is comprised of six chapters. In the opening chapter, we met Syeira, a fortune-teller, who gives birth to a girl, Britannia. Britannia excels at everything and becomes a successful French Resistance fighter due to her extraordinary capabilities. After the war, she settles with a travelling circus, telling fortunes like her Mother. With her is Lan, a boy who was rescued as a baby by Britannia and also possesses uncanny abilities. These gifts enable him to rise to the dizzying heights of circus performing, managing, academia and international espionage, meeting an encouraging and colourful cast of characters along the way.
Night Shadow’s Son is an unusual and, in places, highly remarkable book. The opening chapter has a fairy tale atmosphere. The plot hints at supernatural elements at work and this touch of magic is the thread that runs throughout the novel. Each chapter provokes a change in plot direction; the French Resistance chapter (2) is completely different in feel and content to the previous. Mr Grayson’s writing has a jaunty, intentionally naïve tone; the prose is fact-driven and impartial. This prosaic delivery does mean, on occasion, the characters are a little one-dimensional. We are not given too much insight into their emotional depth or feelings which is ironic given some of the fantastical events that occur to them. Yet, in many ways this juxtaposition works well and reminds me of The Brothers Grimm stories.
The novel is fairly fast-paced and can be quite tiring at times. Personally, I found chapter five the weakest; it did get a touch dense. Some of the chapters could have been tighter in construction. Occasionally, you feel that there should be more than one book here. There are areas of superfluous detail that, although entertaining, did not drive the narrative forward. However, there are pockets of lovely, original, whimsical writing and some of the exchanges between Syeira and Britannia were incredibly touching. As a character, Lan, was the most interesting. Both he and the narrative keep you curious as to where he is heading. In parts, he seems to inhabit the role of an idiot savant yet his unsophisticated, disarming manner is both clever and thought-provoking.
Night Shadow’s Son is an interesting journey of a book; part-allegory, part-adventure that requires active reader engagement; your imagination needs to work with the narrative and the story is rewarding as a result. An intriguing novel that is highly recommended.