If one is reading British writer G.P. Taylor’s stories in chronological order, the next book after his overly-religious Shadowmancer is Wormwood. Oh, no! What clichés will this new book have in store? Surprisingly enough, Wormwood proves to be a bit more intriguing than its predecessor with fewer religious references and more of a plot to keep the reader’s attention.
The end is coming. The Nemorensis, a book that seems to write itself, has predicted the beginning of the end. A large comet named Wormwood is heading towards Earth and, if it collides, will destroy nearly half of the planet. The only human who knows of this impending doom is Dr. Sabian Blake, a scientist who was given the Nemorensis by chance. He wants to share his discovery with the world, but the comet brings more than just a doomsday prophesy with it. As the comet streaks across the sky, the world will never be the same.
In all fairness, Taylor’s second attempt at his series of books is not terrible. Any story involving apocalyptic happenings seems to be catching the attention of young readers nowadays and this is meant for children 12 years and older. Knowing Taylor, he needs to focus on a story or book in the Bible and what better book concerning end times would be more perfect than the Book of Revelations. Before a reader thinks of banging his or her head on the table, thinking they are about to read another story riddled with religious clichés, take a step back. Though there are religious references in Wormwood, they are not as overly abundant or painstakingly obvious as in Shadowmancer.
By focusing on just one book of the Bible, Taylor was able to keep both his plot and his characters under control. One can tell Wormwood’s plot has a more organized flow, retrieving information from one book rather than multiple books. The main verse in Revelations Taylor’s plot ties to is verse 8:10–11, “The third angel sounded his trumpet, and a great star, blazing like a torch, fell from the sky on a third of the rivers and on the springs of water — the name of the star is Wormwood. A third of the waters turned bitter, and many people died from the waters that had become bitter.” While one is reading, one also notices that the characters keep referring to the comet as a sky dragon. This could subtly tie to a verse in Revelations, verse 12:9, “And the great dragon was thrown down, the serpent of old who is called the devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.” Though the comet may not be Satan himself (he is wherever Shadowmancer is taking place during this story), the comet’s fall from the heavens is very similar.
Aside from the more organized manner of the plot, there are still some things Taylor needs to work on. The characters, like in Shadowmancer, are still fairly flat and either hardly change or change too drastically. The young servant girl Agetta, who cleans Dr. Blake’s home, changes her moods as often as the young Kate in Shadowmancer. She is also just as naïve since she is younger (early teens). Taylor actually writes adults very well and would truly benefit if he wrote a dark novel about adults for adults. Dr. Blake has some good character growth, though he still falls flat by the end of the story. Other characters introduced throughout the story are just strange and, seemingly, random. Taylor introduces three creatures that don’t seem to have a definite part to the story. They just seem to be there to maybe scare younger readers.
Taylor also repeats his actions from Shadowmancer by putting in too much detail at times. Detail is good and, when done right, can paint a beautiful picture in the reader’s mind. However, there is such a thing as too much detail. Many of these instances involved how characters interacted with each other. Before a character spoke to another character, Taylor would throw in random bits of detail like, “She stared at them angrily and wanted to beat them upside the head.” This is not an actual quote, but similar to the way one of the maids looked at two gentlemen. Why does she want to beat them? She doesn’t even know them. Going alongside everything being too detailed is that everything is too convenient for the characters. “Oh, I need to get on top of this building to hide from a monster. Hey! Look at that, a ladder that will reach right to the top is conveniently here for me to climb!” An instant of this from the book is when Agetta is trying to get to the attic of her home in the middle of the night, but it is locked. Luckily, she has a piece of metal in her pocket and she uses that to pick the lock. What? Who has metal shards in their pockets? Much less a child in her pajamas with no pockets on her! These may seem like small things, but when they occur repetitively throughout the story’s entirety, it becomes difficult to ignore.
Though Shadowmancer may not have been the interesting story it could have been, Wormwood is worth a try. It is considered a sequel to Shadowmancer, for it begins right where Shadowmancer ends, but it stands on its own. Sure, it references small occurrences from Shadowmancer, but it is not necessary to read in order to understand Wormwood. The characters are not extremely memorable and the detail is over the top for most of the story, but the plot is there and it is intriguing enough for a one time read. Perhaps Taylor should have just stuck with this story rather than writing other story arcs to occur alongside it.
Originally published at www.examiner.com on April 30, 2015.