Jeanne Cavelos

Del Rey / 352 pages / Reissue edition (February 27, 2001)

ISBN: 0345427211

You should know right up from that I have never — that’s right, never — seen an episode of Babylon 5. But, I was assured by Jeanne Cavelos, that would not affect my enjoyment of Casting Shadows. She was right. Scarcely a mention was made of Babylon 5 or her crew. Of course, if they were mentioned, how would I know? The point being: loyal fan or casual browser, this is a book all of us can appreciate.

As Casting Shadows begins Galen, an apprentice techno-mage, and his mentor Elric are awaiting the gathering of the community of techno-mages for the Convocation. Should he successfully pass his initiation, Galen will be a full-fledged techno-mage when the celebrations conclude. It’s enough to make a young student fraught with anxiety; Galen has no idea just how dangerous it will be. If he did, he might run in the opposite direction.

But, the peril of the initiation is about to be dwarfed by an infinitely greater threat: after a thousand years, the Shadows are about to return. No deadlier enemy faces the galaxy than this ruthless, war-worshipping race. A war with the Shadows could well mean the end of all competing life.

Are the Shadows coming though? Galen and another new initiate, Isabelle, are ordered to uncover the truth — and this may be the the most dangerous action of all.

Casting Shadows’s techno-mages are a fascinating construct of magic and technology. Their fabulist conjurings contain energy, misdirection, and protection, making the mages powerful weapons themselves. How likely is it that either side in the coming struggle will allow them to remain neutral? What chance is there that the opposing side will allow them to live?

Cavelos has set the scene for a colossal, inescapable conflict, one that could truly be the war to end all wars. After the Shadows attack there is likely to be no one left to resist them; they are killing machines. Along the way, Cavelos’ story takes some unexpected, if not entirely welcome, turns, supplying the divers characters with ample provocation for revenge.

By the last page of the book, the reader is almost ready to fight the bloodthirsty Shadows, too. Somehow though, through Cavelos’ even-handed treatment, I think we’ll be seeing more than this one viewpoint of the enemy. Villains, heroes, innocents, and pawns, she shows us a complete picture of each character, leaving us with subtle shades of gray painting in every personality, even while keeping readers at a distance at this early stage. The Shadows will not remain black blurs for long, I’d wager.

There you have it: even if you’ve never heard of this Babylon 5 program you’ll find plenty to relish in Casting Shadows. High adventure. Drama. Aliens. Magic. Hmmm….With Cavelos wielding the pen you might never think about your TV again.