Author: Robin Wayne Bailey
Publisher: White Wolf Publishing
Full disclosure: this wasn’t the first time I ever read this book. I originally read it upon its first release, way back in 1995, when I was probably too young to really grasp everything that was going on in it. A long, long while went by and then I decided a few years back that I needed to read it again, and so I tracked it down and it had been sitting on my shelves ever since. I kept saying I was going to read it again, yet there was always something else. I’m glad I finally took the time to read Shadowdance again, though.
The story itself could be easily slotted into the somewhat tenuous genre of ‘dark fantasy,’ with a not ungenerous helping of eroticism. It’s not for the faint of heart, not because the content or depictions themselves are overtly graphic–though there are a handful of shocking moments–but it is a story that deals very much with the darker inclinations of people. It is quite predisposed with dark desires and motivations. The main character, Innowen, is born without the use of his legs but through the machinations of a mysterious, magical woman is given back the ability to walk under the stipulation that he dance every night. That is not the only catch, though. Spoiler alert: anyone who witnesses Innowen dancing becomes possessed by their deepest, darkest desire and becomes seemingly helpless in its thrall. This becomes a root of much, if not all, of the conflict of the book.
All of it is played out in meticulous detail, in a fascinating fantasy reinterpretation of Bronze Age Greece. Bailey is fastidious in his descriptions, and the prose itself reads easily if not down right flows in some places. There are battles and magic, madness and intrigue, dark gods and conspiracy. In all, it’s not quite the book I remember it being all those years ago, but it is still a fascinating read and a unique experience. I’ve no doubt some will be quite turned off by it, if not outright upset by it. White Wolf had a tendency to publish what they considered shocking fiction back in the nineties, things that smashed and pushed through genre walls.
Shadowdance certainly accomplishes that, and is available on Amazon primarily in digital though you can still find physical copies out in the wild if you look for them.