A Shadow All of Light by Fred Chappell

Falco is a young man from the country with high ambitions. He travels to the port city of Tardocco with the intention of becoming an apprentice to a master shadow thief. Almost immediately he meets Maestro Astolfo, the most well known of all shadow dealers, who sees a great deal of potential in Falco and agrees to take him on as an apprentice.

Maestro Astolfo is a unique man. Secretive with a power of observation and intellect that would rival Sherlock Holmes himself. As Falco trains and learns more of the Maestro, he cannot help but wonder if the rumors he hears are true and just how far Astolfo’s knowledge goes.

Set in a pseudo 17th-18th Century Italy, A Shadow All of Light is told in a series of short stories. Each short story chronicles a time in Falco’s training and eventual partnership with Astolfo as he learns the art of shadows. Through the stories we see Falco grow and mature from a brash young man in the beginning to an older married man in the eventual end.

If I have one complaint about the book, it would be that the speaking style of the characters is rather stilted. Their speech is obviously based on speaking patterns of the time and can be rather odd to the modern ear. I found it to be very reminiscent of reading Shakespeare and there were several times I had to reread a sentence a few times to understand the meaning.

The action itself was well written and well paced. There were also numerous humorous moments that made me smile.

A Shadow All of Light was another of those books that came to me as a recommendation. Being a fan of Sherlock Holmes, I often find it interesting how authors will take his well known skills and fit them to another character. Maestro Astolfo is one such character in that he has taken a lifetime of study and applied it to become the most well known and richest of shadow dealers.

If it weren’t for the sometimes awkward speaking style of the characters, I would have gladly given A Shadow All of Light full marks. As it is, I do recommend this book to most readers. I just advise them to take their time and go slowly and enjoy.

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