Book Review: The Shadow Academy by Adrian Cole

Shadow

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Hades Pubns (September 2014)
  • Language: English

The Shadow Academy By Adrian Cole; Edge Publishing- Scheduled for release September 2014 in USA

In a world decimated by the Plague Wars, Grand Britania is attempting to hold back the encroachment of barbarism as the world tried to function with a small percentage of its population intact. Britain has reverted to an island populated by mainly small towns and ruled by Londonborough, the remaining bastion of any sort of ancient civilization.  And among all of this is the ever present danger of the Invasion from Evropa.  Nobody knows why they want to invade, but they know they will.

Adrian Cole comes up with an interesting ”end of the world” premise, originally portrayed in the book as a worldwide plague that decimates the population and reduces civilization to a mere fraction of the people available.  The Authority wants to rebuild the world and controls all aspects of life in the new government build around the old British capital.  The tension starts slow as we meet Chad Mundy, a scholar who is just reaching his time of first appointment after graduation from the Academy, who has also tasted the forbidden fruit of knowledge with his association with the Historical Society, a rebellious band of scholars who know the secret of what really happened to end civilization as we know it now.  Mundy is placed in a position in a far corner of the authority’s control in Petra Dumnoniorum. He is replacing a scholar who supposedly committed suicide by throwing himself off the high walls and into the passing river. Mundy finds himself in a web of secretive scholars and a just as secretive group of Pagans, who resist Authority’s push to follow the state religion.  Attacked almost immediately as a way of getting his attention focused on following the rules, Mundy realizes much is going on that no one seems to speak of in polite company.  When he finally meets the leader of the Pagans, the Green Man, resurrected from ancient traditions of the British Isles, Mundy finds he bears a secret key to unlock the knowledge that will destroy the Authority.

As end of the world stories go, this book has an interesting premise.  A worldwide plague is a very popular idea and when Cole flips the premise on its ear at the end with his secret revelation, he provides new ways to look at both science and civilization.  The old adage of “just because we can doesn’t mean we should” comes to mind much the same way concerns about the Bern Supercollider might destroy the planet circulated just before that project proved its success. But the revelation provides just as many questions as answers.  If things happened the way Cole suggests, why aren’t all the people gone rather than just some? I’m sure he has a good reason, but it’s missing from the text.  And his rebuild Londonborough which is now the hub of his new great Britania, is an amazing mix of growing technology, and a surprising lack of Britishism.  Even after a couple of hundred years, I would have expected the British to be more British.  It’s as if Americans resettled the island after the disaster. And the constant reference to Invasion, with no background is a frustrating aspect of the story. Why would someone want to invade if everyone has suffered from the plague?  If the only people who were affected were the people of Great Britania, then why would someone come to a plague zone?  But perhaps that was what gave the Authority a reason to train all its young people to fight.  The enemy was never properly identified, but everyone knew there was an enemy.  Perhaps the idea that a military basis of society gave them more control was the entire purpose of the exercise.

Overall, Shadow Academy is well written and shows Cole handles stories well.  If this is the beginning of a new series, it will be interesting to see how he handles the myriad questions he has left hanging.- Jack Hillman

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