Shadowlands

Title: Shadowlands
Author: Charlie David
Buy link: Amazon.com
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Genre: Gay Fiction, Paranormal, Horror, Contemporary M/M, Anthology
Length: Novella (180 PDF pages)
Rating: 5 stars out of 5

A guest review by Tj

Summary Review: A beautifully written cornucopia of literature styles and themes that is surprising, sexy, scary and at times disturbing, but so very worth experiencing.

The Blurb: Shadowlands is a collection of heartfelt and sometimes heartbreaking short stories from well-known actor and entrepreneur Charlie David that explore the passion and pain of gay sexuality. Ancient myths are re-imagined with an exciting queer twist, masterfully depicting the charged, fragile relationships of urban life today.

Story genres in this collection include romance, science fiction, fantasy/paranormal, horror, mystery/suspense, and poetry.

The Review: Mr. Charlie David has written something here that defies categorization. The prose throughout is vivid, lyrical, poetic and raises this book to another level. There are mystical and paranormal themes weaved throughout most of the stories, but also some that are just glimpses into the lives of gay people. Overall, the characters are varied, interesting and surprisingly well developed for such short stories, and the author did a fantastic job of explaining their feelings to the reader. I couldn’t possibly do justice to all of the vignettes included within these pages, but I’ll try to briefly talk about each story to give you a feel of what this experience was like.

Pygmalion revisited – A thoroughly heart breaking story of love and loss wherein a sculptor deals with the loss of his lover in the only way he knows how. The author shows us snatches of the sculptor, Marcus’ life, or rather his half life as he no longer feels alive without Nic. I found this story to be very well written, the emotions realistic, and the characters of Marcus and Nic (through flashbacks) truly came alive for me.

October 13th – A story of love unfulfilled, wherein Mr. David takes us on an sexy exploration of the relationship between 2 twenty-something guys. What’s interesting here, is that the boys never get names, they are only referred to as the one on the left and the one on the right. This had the curious effect of making them seem like they could be anyone, and was so well done that I was actually brought back to a time in my own past while I was reading, and vividly recalled the feelings . The guys are alone sitting on the sofa and watching a movie. Little by little, we get glimpses into their thoughts and feelings as it’s revealed that the one on the right has a secret – he is in love with his friend but thinks that nothing can ever happen since his friend has a girlfriend. I think a lot of men have found themselves in a similar situation of wanting a friend to be more, but being afraid of ruining the friendship. I can’t believe how erotic this was without any real sex in it, well if you don’t count some foot frottage, or is that called foot-age? You’ll have to read this one to see what I mean.

The Twisted story of Ganymede – Young Fernando struggles to work through his painful past with his therapist. What he finally reveals was both troubling and also very likely a fantasy for a lot of young gay men. The author did a fine job of making the reader feel Fernando’s pain.

Grindr – I had a stupid grin on my face as I finished reading this story. It’s beautifully written, and despite the somewhat paranormal aspects, it’s a touching, and alternately heart breaking and heart warming tale of dealing with loss and finding a new beginning – updated for the 21st century. I enjoyed this one a lot. It has a really great ending that’s sure to make you smile.

Witch’s Brew – Well written, brief and somewhat troubling look at attraction, and self hatred.

Lucretia undone – Okay, so Lucretia’s a girl, but she is a lesbian and there’s no on-page sex, so I suppose we can let it slide. 😉 Her story is tragic and haunting and has a shocking – “wow, I did not expect that” ending!

The Hiker – A spooky story reminiscent of bygone days, with scary ghost stories told by the campfire. Young Dany and Brad go camping off season and meet a mysterious and sexy hiker.

The Transmitter – Very creepy tale. Don’t read this one in bed! Told in the first person POV, that will have you questioning the narrator’s sanity, and is sure to put a scare into you.

Harvest – An alternately sexy and scary ghost story, wherein down-on-his-luck hunk Joe is rescued by an older man and offered the keys to his Jaguar in exchange for completing some simple tasks. But as Joe is about to find out, there are no free rides, are there?

Numbers – Like a butterfly, this beautifully written piece briefly alights on a subject then quickly moves on to something new. Touching on unrequited love, abuse, family and the sometimes fleeting nature of desire, this selection reads like   fine poetry. Just read this:

“Can’t you see I’m ready to end everything to be your anything? Pathetic. Maybe. Or maybe that’s love. I can’t put my finger on why it is that I love you because there are too many words to hold. They spill out of my fist and onto the floor.”

Just… beautiful. I love that imagery.

Xander & Hephaestion – A thought provoking look at overcoming loss and aging in a youth-centric society such as ours. What would you do if you had the opportunity to stay young forever?

Narcissus – Quite a troubling exploration into the nature of beauty following an ugly duckling’s quest for perfection that turns violent and deadly. Color me creeped out.

And finally we end with Puer Aeternus, a brief but lyrical bit of prose.

I highly recommend this wonderful compilation, as you are sure to find several stories that impress you. Maybe not every one of them will be your cup of tea, as was my experience, but they are all beautifully written and thought provoking or in some cases just plain creepy. And lastly, before I go, I must  lodge a complaint. It is simply not fair that one man can be both so beautiful and such a talented writer. 😉

15 comments

  • TJ – Dreamspinner Press just sent me a link to your review here. Thank you so much for your very generous and kind words. I really appreciate you taking the time to read Shadowlands and am so pleased you enjoyed it.

    You’re all welcome to enter the circus of my mind here…

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g91MFUGEloQ

    TJ – you may be right, the narrator may be on the edge of madness! 🙂

    Reply
    • Hi Charlie,
      It truly was my pleasure to read and review this remakable book. You sir are truly blessed with a gift for words. I was duly impressed that even the darker stories had such lyrical prose. I look forward to reading more of your work, so I hope you are busy writing! I wasn’t doubting your sanity BTW, just the character’s. 😉

      Reply
  • Great review, TJ! This didn’t sound like the easiest book in the world to review because of all the unusual aspects + the sheer variety of stories, but you did a great job getting across the feel of it. I read a lot of SFF so I might look into this one.

    Reply
    • Thank you Val. Luckily I liked the book so it didn’t seem hard to review as I was doing it. Also I usually take some notes as I read a book to review, so that I have some ideas as to what worked. With anthologies like this I find that helps a lot so I remember a bit about each story.
      You should definitely check Shadowlands out. You won’t have ever read anything like it.

      Reply
  • TJ
    This seems like a book with my name on it.

    When Charlie David wrote me about reviewing Shadowlands I wasn’t sure if I would like it but reading your review it’s definitely going to the top of my TBR. I don’t mind stories with ‘hopeful’ or even bad endings – like you, the prose and the dialogue as well as the characterizations are what I look for. A lesbian story? You cheater!!! 😉

    I think he might be Canadian because he has .ca after his web address. BG said that he’s gorgeous. *must check him out* LOL

    Reply
    • Hi Wave,
      I think you and I have similar tastes and like to try books that break the mold, which Shadowlands definitely does. The prose is absolutely beautiful, some is poetic with wonderful imagery. I do think that you will like this book. It’s like a breath of fresh air. And the lesbian story will shock you and not because of the lesbian.

      Yes, Charlie is a fellow Canadian (you lucky girl) and very easy on the eyes. He was one of your Saturday hotties.

      Reply
  • Like Jenre, I would like to know if these stories end badly. I don’t mind sometimes, but usually on a site like this, we are getting romantic endings and I don’t want to be shocked…

    “Dante’s Cove” has to be about the worst show ever made, alone with that horrible vampire show made by the same people. I couldn’t even watch it. Scripts and acting were beyond horrible. But then this author didn’t write either show and I only mention it because the blurb said the author was a “well known actor” and I didn’t recognize the name so I looked him up on imdb. WOW is he gorgeous! WOW!

    The only thing I may have seen him in was “Four Letter Word” and I sorta wiped that from my memory.

    He sure seems like a great guy and I am seriously tempted to give this a chance. I’d love to hear Jenre’s question answered first though..!

    Reply
    • Hi BG,
      As I said to Jen, these are not your traditional m/m stories, but that is exactly what appealed to me. The closest to a HEA are the two stories that I mentioned with hopeful endings, that I loved. I read a lot of mainstream fiction, so I was fine with the various endings. I would say if you want a love story with HEA, this wouldn’t be a good choice. This is something out of the ordinary, if you’re looking for a change of pace.

      I think Dante’s Cove is supposed to be like a gay Melrose Place, you know a bit tongue in cheek, and very over the top. Charlie David’s talents are much better showcased in “Mulligans”, or even in his travel series “Bump” on Logo here in the states.

      Reply
      • Thanks – I love all kinds of fiction – all kinds. It doesn’t have to have a HEA ending. But generally, fiction reviewed here does have that. I just wanted to know what I was getting into before buying it. Thanks!

        Reply
        • BG – Then surely these stories will intrigue you. I hope you do take a chance on Shadowlands. Let me know what you think afterwards.

          Reply
  • This is a great review, TJ, and I can see why you liked the stories. I have this thing about reading anthologies where all the stories end badly, would you say this is the case here? If it is, I’ll have to pass. Not that I can’t see the appeal for other readers, just that I have to have at least some of the stories ending well or I feel too down when I’ve finished.

    Reply
    • Thanks Jen. That’s a good point. In a word, no, this book doesn’t have traditional m/m stories with HEAs. Grindr and October 13 have hopeful endings, which personally I loved. Although I have to tell you that I frequently prefer hopeful endings. But most of the other stories are paranormal, Scifi or a few that are just plain scary.

      I loved Shadowlands because it is just beautifully written, with almost lyrical prose, but I completely understand that it’s not what everyone wants in a book. Some of the stories do end “badly”, some are neither bad nor happy, but just make you think, but I didn’t find the book sad at all. I hope that helps.

      Reply

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