Harry Potter's new rival

`Shadowmancer' is a Christian option for fantasy readers

April 27, 2004|By Jennifer Lehman | Jennifer Lehman,SUN STAFF

For parents who love seeing their children read but, as Christians, worry about Harry Potter's positive depictions of witchcraft, today's arrival of G.P. Taylor's Shadowmancer would seem a godsend.

The book, already a hit overseas (it spent 15 weeks at No. 1 on British book charts), offers parents an alternative to author J.K. Rowling's juggernaut Potter series while promising young readers a similar tale of adventure, but with biblical references vs. flying brooms.

And in the writings of British author Taylor, a vicar in the parish of Whitby, good always outweighs evil.

"[We have] 54 copies on hand and we've already sold 10," says Anne Heinricks, an associate at Borders in Columbia, adding that the store already has a Shadowmancer display in the children's section.

Shadowmancer is set in 18th-century London, where an evil vicar, Obadiah Demurral, uses sorcery to set a course toward world domination. All that stands between him and his victory are teen-agers Thomas, Raphah and Kate.

Taylor took nine months to write Shadowmancer, his first book. He sold his beloved motorcycle to cover costs of self-publishing, never expecting a hit.

Since then, Taylor has signed with Putnam Publishing, was offered a $4 million-plus movie deal and has been writing the sequel, Wormwood, due out in June.

Still, on these shores, many bookstores have yet to discover Shadowmancer.

"I haven't heard of it," says Janet Loizeaux, purchasing and receiving clerk at Trustworthy Bookstore in Randallstown. Loizeaux says a book like Shadowmancer is needed at the store, but its supplier doesn't carry it.

Others have been anticipating its arrival.

JoAnn Fruchtman, owner of Children's Book Store in Baltimore, runs a fantasy book group and says she plans to discuss Shadowmancer with the children.

"We actually gave the kids in the fantasy club a folder about it ahead of time," she says. "Most of them know about the book and they'll read it."

As for Shadowmancer vs. Harry Potter, Fruchtman demurs.

"It's a different author, different fantasy, a different book," she says.

Pat Kohr, owner of His Way Christian Bookstore in Ellicott City, says that's just what she's hoping for. "[Harry Potter's] not a book that I would want my children to read," she says. "I think Christians have come along with this to give kids an option."

Kohr, who has owned the bookstore for 26 years, reads all of the books in her store and won't stock anything that she feels doesn't glorify God. Shadowmancer will be no different.

"I will reserve final judgment," she says.

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