Shades 01 : Shadow Dance (2001)

Author Robert Hood
Publisher Hodder Headline Australia
Length 161 pages + first pages of Shades 02
Genre Young Adult
Blurb Something is waiting in the shadows

Talk us through it

Nathan Maples wakes with no idea who he is or where he is. As if a spot of amnesia isn't bad enough Nathan also has a strange reaction to sunlight, it makes him transparent and over exposure makes him fade. Nathan is no longer human. On the bright side of the sundial he can use shadows to move between locations, unfortunately those shadows hide crocodile headed monsters who want a piece of him.

Our hero will receive help from Shine and Cassandra, two non-human Shades, and his best friend Melissa Greeley. Nathan soon finds he must save his parents from the chaos and ultimate darkness of Acheron. Can Nathan learn to harness his new powers or will he become another element in Acheron's plan to avert the light?

Ready to slip on a pair of raybans and face gatorhead?


"It made me want to curl up into a ball and hum Spice Girl's songs." - Nathan Maple.

My son was given a whole box load of those Goosebumps books by neighbours and immediately showed a hereto unknown desire to read something slightly more lengthy than a video game review. He managed to get through the first four Goosebumps outings before becoming bogged down and putting the box and it's garishly covered contents into his cupboard. The clear idea there being out of sight out of mind, cool the latest games mag has arrived. Figuring he might be slightly tired of reading the same stuff I cast around for something different. Didn't take long before I discovered Robert Hood's young adult series of books Shades. Naturally enough I ordered the first book, and then decided maybe I should read it before allowing developing minds loose in the minefield that can be a Robert Hood read. Hence the review, lets get stuck into it and talk about what might be between the covers of Shadow Dance.

First and foremost the book is aimed at a Young Adult audience, what ever that may be defined as, guess reading age. So Shadow Dance isn't into epic Stephen King length and avoids all those pesky long words with multiple syllables that might trip up the young reader. So if expecting some Jane Austen, zombies or otherwise, then you are in the wrong place. Come to think of it if Austen is your thing then you are on the wrong site. In the wash-up the book is going to work for younger readers as it pretty much touches base with the requirements; it has the required simplified plot, and the main character learns something about family, friends, and responsibility along the way to page final.

Robert Hood may be writing for a younger audience, and those of us older folk he drags into the narrative as well, but he is in no way condescending or giving anything but his best in Shadow Dance. How many YA books have you read where you felt like smacking the author in the mouth due to the poor attempt at book creation? With Robert Hood you are in safe hands, and even better the young folk are being looked after. The characters are well rounded, with Hood quite happy to show them warts and all, the plotline is thought out and logically, and we even get a whole mythology to wallow in. Now just how good is that! In short Robert Hood may be writing for a younger readership but he is respecting his audience, a hallmark of a great writer in my humble opinion.

One of the strengths of Shadow Dance is Robert Hood's willingness to mix genre conventions to get where he is going. Sure the book is pretty much a horror fable, and Hood doesn't hold back on some claret when it's call for, but there's also a heavy dose of fantasy thrown into the mix that I certainly appreciated. Nathan Maple, our central character and narrator, finds himself in possession of powers he isn't aware of how to use, has to embark on a quest to save his parents, and in doing so ends up wiser and stronger than when he woke with no idea of who he was. Classic fantasy, and sure to be a winning element with the young folk, and those of us older folk he drags into the narrative as well.

For those wondering about the "H' word, yes Rob Hood hits the horror elements without apology. Besides the fore mention crocodile headed monsters, there's some blood being spilt, not everyone is going to make it out of the book alive, and Acheron pretty much stands in for the fella with the horns and pitchfork in a sort of metaphysical fashion that will probably be more apparent to those of us older folk he (Robert Hood not Acheron) drags into the narrative as well. To be honest there's nothing much in Shadow Dance that is going to cause your young reader to have nightmares, considering they have been brought up on ads extolling the virtue of "ripping off it's head and sucking out it's guts". But be aware horror themes and the like.

I've mentioned a few times "those of us older folk he drags into the narrative as well", which should be fair warning that Shadow Dance has something for the more advanced reader as well as the younger crowd. Heck if I had to be honest, (and this is just between you and me), the book is a page turner that I couldn't put down. As with his more adult orientated fiction Robert Hood has the ability to cast a spell over the reader and drag him/her into the narrative and force you to keep reading right to the final page. The author would have probably been burnt at the stake in less enlightened times, say back when John Howard was Prime Minister.

Shades 01: Shadow Dance may be a tad difficult to find unfortunately. I got my copy from the Australia Bookstore Online, which is like the coolest place to check back releases and they do ship overseas, or you could try contacting the folk at Agog! Press. Amazon is always worth a look and of course one of the online auction places might prove worth while checking out. If really needing your Shades fix use the contact form and I'll see what I can do, nothing guaranteed there of course.

Hey the really cool thing is there are three more books in the series! And in case you need to ask, I'll be getting my young adult on and hitting all three of the books in coming weeks.

ScaryMinds Rates this read as ...

Excellent young adult novel that holds enough depth for the adult reader as well. Mark it down and go grab a copy.