This review was first published in Resource Links Magazine, Canada’s national journal devoted to the review and evaluation of Canadian English and French resources for children and young adults. It appears in volume 15.4
The Shadow Road
I feel like an ancient explorer: I have discovered a new land, and it is mine. This world was created by K.V. Johansen in the first book of her Warlocks of Talverdin series, Nightwalker (Orca, 2007). The Shadow Road is the fourth in the series, and thus seems a little confusing at first, but the author manages to integrate sufficient reference to past events to help the new reader learn her world, without obviously re-telling the plot of previous books. In The Shadow Road, we are plunged into mystery in the opening pages, wherein young Nethin is trapped inside a coffin, his magical powers impotent. It is slowly and artfully revealed that Nethin is the son of Lord Romner and Lady Fuallia, minor protagonists of earlier tales, and a powerful warlock in his own right… usually. His powers overcome by potions, his enemies use him to open a gateway onto the mythical “shadow road” that connects their world with others. The adventures that ensue are complex and carefully constructed; Johansen is adept at presenting intricate political and social intrigue, supported by strong characterization. On her website, she admits having been influenced by Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings—what author of high fantasy since the 1950s was not?—but the influence lies more in Johansen’s narrative craft than in any plot or character similarities. She has created a fascinating, original fantasy world, one which readers will want to enter in to dwell. As with Middle Earth, we imagine the shadowy spaces outside of the narrative, peopled by characters we have yet to meet, partaking of incidents that have yet to happen, and we fervently hope that K. V. Johansen will continue to tell their tales for years to come.