~by Gregory Frost
I first heard about Shadowbridge, and its sequel Lord Tophet, on LibraryThing. About a month later I received an e-mail with a notification that review copies of Lord Tophet were available. The duology had already peaked my interest, so I requested a copy. Unfortunately, I never did receive it. Doubly unfortunate, because of the two, my library only has a copy of Shadowbridge. I was warned by several sources not to read the first book without having the second book on hand. They were right.
The world of Shadowbridge is a world of vast oceans--there is land, but not much of it. Instead, most people have made their homes and livelihoods on the seemingly endless bridges, called spans, that crisscross the waters. Each span is different from the next, with its own cultures, its own peoples, and perhaps most importantly, its own stories.
Leodora is a collector of stories. Travelling the spans disguised as a man, she is quickly becoming recognized as one of the world's best, if not the best, puppet-master and story-teller. Known only as Jax, she is an intensely charismatic enigma to most people, and to some extent even to herself. Orphaned and on the run from her abusive uncle, she has no real knowledge of her own past. Soter, her manager and self-appointed guardian, is the only link she has left to her parents. But he's not particularly forthcoming--when he's not drunk, he's doing all he can to avoid telling Leodora what really happened to her parents, and what danger now follows them on their journey over the spans.
As already mentioned, the warnings are true--if when you start Shadowbridge you find yourself enjoying it, immediately get your hands on a copy of Lord Tophet (I still haven't managed to yet, and I'm regretting that fact something awful.) Really, even without reading the second book, I think they should have been published together. Shadowbrdge doesn't even end in a good spot--basically all the primary characters have been introduced, and a grand adventure hinted at, when it pretty much just stops. I'm not entirely sure it can be called a cliff-hanger as we hadn't quite managed to reach the cliff yet.
Except for being based more in fantasy than in science fiction, Shadowbridge reminded me quite a bit of The Merro Tree by Katie Waitman, which I thoroughly enjoyed. It was also vaguely reminiscent of Touched by Venom by Janine Cross, especially towards the beginning. (However, Shadowbridge is hands-down by far the superior book.) I particularly enjoyed how the legends and stories of Shadowbridge, which are vitally important to the book, weaved together and even overlapped with the plot. Leodora and her small troupe are absolutely wonderful, Shadowbridge is fantastic, and I'm desperate to get my hands on Lord Tophet.