I’ve had this book sat in my NetGalley account for a while now and, as I’m trying to get better at sending my feedback, I decided it was finally time to read it. This was one of those books that sounded like a really interesting read. I don’t tend to read much fantasy these days and I tend to particularly avoid fantasy for younger readers. It’s the kind of genre that can be done so well but, on the flip side, just be turned into a horrible stereotype of things gone before. There is a fine line between creating a brilliant fantasy world and just shoving a load of random letters together to get a magical sounding city name. But, despite my misgivings, I’m always willing to give the genre a chance and this one sounded interesting.
The Shadow Tribe: Book 1 brings together the first 3 parts of The Shadow Tribe series. It transports us to the desert-city of Terron and introduces us to Joby. Joby is an orphan living on the streets with his faithful dog, Scratch. Joby knows nothing about who he is or where he comes from. His only clues are the mysterious scar on the back of his hand, his magical weapon, and the fact that nobody can see or hear him. Joby has learnt to survive on his own and use his invisibility to get what he needs for himself and Scratch. He believes that he is alone until he starts to meet other children like him. The second and third books introduce Tara and Mickam who, like Joby, are used to going around unseen and have strange scars that they can’t explain. The three of them join together with the hopes of finding out about their pasts.
At the same time the trio discover that trouble is brewing in Terron thanks to the return of Abigor. He is a powerful and dangerous sorcerer who has seduced the King to his will and plans to ban all magic but his own. When he first crosses paths with Abigor, Joby discovers a strange connection between the pair and starts following him. With the help of his new friends, Joby hopes to be able to put a stop to whatever Abigor is planning and save the people of Terron from a potentially deadly fate.
The basic premise of The Shadow Tribe is a really interesting one and I really loved the slow reveal of Joby’s invisibility. It’s a playful and fun narrative that has a lot of potential for originality. It has the feel of an Enid Blyton book but set in a purely fantasy realm. It’s the kind of book that feels so familiar and quaint whilst bringing in new and interesting ideas. The character of Joby is introduced to us first and, as such, is the most developed. The rest of the Shadow Tribe members are all brought in quite quickly and don’t have the same time to develop. However, having only read parts 1-3, I assume we will come to learn more about these figures later.
My major problem with the book is that everything seems to be moving quite slowly. It’s kind of impossible to rid yourself of the feeling that the story is being dragged out to enable more parts. There is so much description of nothing. So much happens but it all leads to nothing. You can blatantly see where this is going but it is also painfully obvious that we’re taking the long way round. The very long way round. And, as a lover of Tolkein’s kind of meandering manner, I don’t think this is a bad thing in theory. I just don’t think it works in this setting. There descriptions aren’t lush or lyrical. They are just quite repetitive. We get so many repeated episodes of Joby stealing food. Once this is introduced there is no need to go back to it unless you’re just stalling.
But that’s not to say there aren’t positives here. I think this is a perfectly good read for a younger reader. I’d have to say it feels a little young and simplistic for my tastes but it introduces some great ideas. It will definitely get readers interested and wanting to read on. Mainly thanks to the many many mysteries that are introduced. The final few chapters are crammed so full of cliffhangers I felt like I was reading a Dan Brown novel for a moment! This is what I like to call clever rather than good writing. It gets people reading but doesn’t necessarily excite them. Will I go on to read the rest of the series? Probably not but, if I ever manage to tackle my huge TBR, there might come a day when the mystery of Joby gets too much for me to bear.