THE SHADOWS OF GOD
Reviewed by Steven H Silver
The Shadows of God is the final book of J. Gregory Keyes’s “The Age of Unreason,” and, as such, it ties together the varied strands of story which wound their way through the previous novels. Unlike the first two books, but much in the manner of the third, The Shadows of God does not stand on its own, but relies heavily on knowledge of the previous books to make sense. Unfortunately, Keyes does not provide the necessary summation of those books.
When The Shadows of God opens, Keyes follows several of his recurring characters, the Indian shaman Red Shoes, Benjamin Franklin, the Frenchwoman Adrienne, and General Oglethorpe. He fails to make clear which characters are currently aligned with which characters, although in the end, all of these characters will join forces against the demonic forces of the malikim, who have been growing more and more powerful and mysterious throughout the series. The short chapters in The Shadows of God break up the continuity of plot and characterization even as they provide the novel with a feeling of urgency.
“The Age of Reason” series has inundated the period of the Enlightenment with the forces of the occult, constraining them through a system of magic akin to the laws of physics. Keyes handles his pseudoscience well, beginning to more fully explain the rationale behind his world and the supernatural forces which govern it. At the same time, the earthly battle becomes more convoluted, with nearly all of the characters Keyes follows joining forces, leaving no viewpoint into the enemy camp. This has the effect of making the enemy an enigma even as the war’s endgame is being playing out.
While war has waged throughout the entire four novel series, it seems to take centerstage throughout The Shadows of God, giving the book a more martial feel than the previous novels. However, Keyes does remain with his non-military viewpoint characters who manage to bring their philosophical and supernatural musings with them even when they are forces into combative situations.
Keyes manages to bring his story to a conclusion, although many of is characters are changed in ways which destroy many of their more endearing qualities. Nevertheless, the reader has grown to know these characters and have levels of empathy with them. What Keyes refuses to do, is allow his character to completely ignore their pasts. Even as Franklin discovers a positive link between himself and Adrienne, he can’t help but allow his sense of betrayal and his need for vengeance play a role in his dealings with her, even as they work to save the universe.The Shadows of God is not the most satisfying conclusion to the series, but it does provide closure, explanations and a sense of hope about the strange world in which occult forces and magic hold sway instead of science and rationalism. “The Age of Unreason” could have simply been a world-building experiment on the part of the author, but instead Keyes has managed to suffuse his intriguing world with characters and situations which are real given the confines of the world he has proposed.
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