The curse of Salamander Street
G. P. Taylor
Faber and Faber, 2006, £9.99, Hbk., 335p, ISBN 0571228739
Pbk., ISBN: 057123254X
The sequel to Shadowmancer is an action-packed tale of adventure, mystery and suspense. Kate and Thomas have escaped from the sorcerer Demurral and are sailing to London with captain Jacob Crane aboard his ship, the Magenta. Meanwhile Demurral’s former servant Beadle has broken free and is also making his way south, accompanied by the children’s friend Raphah and a motley group of mysterious characters. As both groups come up against challenges and dangers a growing sense of impending doom pervades the narrative. This is the stuff of nightmare and legend! As the scene shifts to the dimly lit maze of city streets, danger closes in and Demurral’s evil machinations are unveiled, bringing the story to a dramatic climax.
Some have criticised the book for being too dark. Despite the author’s response – that children like scary stuff – I have no doubt that some Christian parents will hesitate to expose their youngsters to it. Dark the book certainly is, but it also effectively exposes evil for what it really is: mean, nasty, twisted, cruel and destructive. While many fantasy novels present the classic struggle between good and evil and the ultimate triumph of good over evil, I have found that many portray evil with a subversively attractive touch of glamour and excitement. No such danger here! Given that we live in a society that blurs the line between right and wrong and often seems oblivious to the real nature of evil, this is perhaps no bad thing.
Another strength of the book is the way the author weaves themes and elements from legend and myth into a rich background tapestry and brings eternal spiritual truths to bear throughout the story. This has been achieved with greater subtlety and is better integrated than in earlier books such as Shadowmancer and Wormwood. Instead of the classic divide between “goodies” and “baddies”, in this new book we see the redemptive process at work in some of the characters as we follow them on their physical and spiritual journeys.
G. P. Taylor’s books have been referred to as “the Christian answer to Harry Potter”. Despite superficial similarities, such as the appearance of magic and mystery, the books are fundamentally different in approach. In Harry Potter the world of magic provides a context for stories that promote the human values of honesty, integrity, friendship, loyalty and courage in the face of danger, and it is essentially these human qualities that vanquish evil. In the work of G. P. Taylor our attention is drawn rather to the cosmic nature of the conflict between good and evil and directed towards man’s helplessness and ultimately, his need for divine intervention and assistance.
Contributed by: Mary Wood, BA, MscInfStud., who works as an Information Researcher at the Chartered Management Institute and manages the CLIS webs ite and e-newsletter.