Hi! I'm Jo, a college student reading my way through various books. I particularly enjoy YA, fantasy, and horror, but I'm also beginning to delve into sci-fi, paranormal, and other genres.
Half-Sick of Shadows is one of those books that left me unsure of whether I had actually enjoyed reading it or not. After having read Apocalypse Cow by the other Terry Pratchett winner, Michael Logan, I wasn't sure what to expect - only that it would be, at the very least, whimsical, and in that sense, the book does deliver.
The first half of the novel is fascinating and beautifully framed. The descriptions of the Manse and its cemetery, interspersed with Edward's commentary on family life keeps the pages turning. I love the references to Tennyson. Daily life just touches the edges of the strange and fantastical, without actually delving too closely into it. Logan is very good at subtly pushing the reader towards the truth behind Edward's childish conclusions about his family, and this is by far the best, and most well thought out part of the novel.
However, it takes an unexpected downturn in the second half. Edward becomes a selfish, strange character that fails to intrigue and engage the reader. The other characters equally become lacklustre and disturbing without actually contributing to the plot. In particular, Sophia's promise is far too flimsy an excuse to keep her inside the Manse permanently, and although Logan hints at other factors, the promise, quite frankly, doesn't hold up. Although the action increases dramatically, especially towards the end, it feels meaningless and unnecessary, with no satisfying conclusion to any of it. I'm not sure what Logan was trying to achieve with the multiple deaths towards the end of the novel. As other reviewers have noted, it seems like he had run out of time to think about it. When reading, there's no time to process the deaths, and so they become trivial when I feel like I should be getting more out of the carnage. Equally, Edward's decision to run off with Alf comes out of absolutely nowhere and leaves the other characters without conclusion. The only saving grace of the novel's half-baked ending is the writing itself, which will keep you reading if nothing else.
Overall, while the premise and first half are excellent and compelling, the story feels unfocused, as if Logan couldn't decide whether to choose between the Manse or Edward and his achievements. The wonderful questions brought up at the beginning of the novel lack follow-through and the ending is unsatisfying. Alf, who is supposed to be one of the biggest focuses of the novel, becomes part of the problem, as Logan fails to develop him, or the world that he exists in. Still, it's definitely worth a read, as the story can be fascinating and engaging when given space to breathe. Borrow it from the library if you're uncertain.
Another side note: I'm not sure why it's being sold as a time travel adventure. Half-Sick of Shadows has very little to do with time travel and is more about the exploration of innocence and its loss, the origins of creativity, and family dynamics.