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Shadowland

by
3.90  ·  Rating Details  ·  8,341 Ratings  ·  225 Reviews
You have been there…
if you have ever been afraid.


Come back. To a dark house deep in the Vermont woods, where two friends are spending a season of horror, apprenticed to a Master Magician.

Learning secrets best left unlearned. Entering a world of incalculable evil more ancient than death itself. More terrifying. And more real.

Only one of them will make it through.
Mass Market Paperback, 468 pages
Published March 4th 2003 by Berkley (first published 1980)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Maciek
Dec 24, 2010 Maciek rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Fans of fantasy and magic
Peter Straub came to prominence in 1979 with Ghost Story, an old fashioned spooky ghost tale which I wasn't really a fan of (though I appreciate it). A year later, in 1980, he published Shadowland, a coming of age novel which can be classified as dark fantasy with horror elements. This time, I say, he penned a winner.
Shadowland is concerned with the friendship of two boys - Tom Flanagan and Del Nightingale - which began at the private all-male school they both attended. As both try to fight the
...more
Dirk Grobbelaar
Mar 08, 2013 Dirk Grobbelaar rated it really liked it
Shelves: horror, books-i-own
Revisited Review

I really enjoy this kind of horror. Shadowland has an elaborate build up, and the reader invests quite a bit in the story before things start going awry. This means that you actually do care about what happens next…

There’s also a very “real world” feel to the events, however bizarre things eventually turn out. You almost, almost feel that this could actually happen. That being said, I wasn’t using the term bizarre loosely just now. This is one sinister story, and if the body cou
...more
Bandit
Feb 10, 2016 Bandit rated it it was ok
Not sure what happened here, although I suspect it was the case of success bloat. Straub's first ventures into supernatural (If You Could See Me Now and Julia) were lean, mean thriller (thrilling)machines. Shadowland must be where he veered off into the prolixity of later years. I had such high expectations for this book based not only on how much I liked the Straub's aforementioned works, but also on the love I have for the subject. Magic, how can you go wrong with magic. It's innately fun. And ...more
Addy
Jun 25, 2015 Addy rated it it was ok
As you can see, it took me forever to read this book. Some parts were beautifully written, but it really felt like 2 books in one. The latter being a struggle that literally took me years to finish. I just hated the ending. It was weird and strange and took too much imagination to even make sense. I can't say how much I didn't enjoy this book. It wasn't for me. I'm struggling to finish Koko as well which is making me apprehensive to start Ghost Story. I really want to like Straub, but his writin ...more
Tony
Apr 05, 2012 Tony rated it did not like it
I really a fish walks by eating a taco want to like this tiiiiin rooof book but rusted? I just get sidetracked once there was a mouse and a squirrel, but that was a long time ago just kept getting distracted a taco walks by eating a fish by the trippy dream sequences the sound of a thousand mute voices saying nothing and random interjections did I have a point? and I'm pretty sure am I me? that in the end nothing nothing? really yes nothing, remember the moral of the fish taco? happened.
Dawn
Mar 28, 2014 Dawn rated it did not like it
I can't even review this. I hated it. Finishing it was like Chinese water torture. I just.. Hated it. I have no idea what the point was... It was just... Ridiculous and bad and ridiculously bad.

I don't want to waste another moment thinking about it, so that's my review.

Not recommended.
Kirstin
May 22, 2016 Kirstin rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Peter Straub can do no wrong apparently. 5 stars, all the way!
Barry
Aug 29, 2011 Barry rated it it was amazing
Some of the more surreal moments, as well as the occasional switches in narratives, made this book a little hard to follow at times, but there IS a reason I gave this book five stars: it was terrific. It's not the all-out horror fest that the cover (of the 1980's paperback) promised, but there were some truly gruesome scenes towards the climax, as well as a general tone of mounting tension throughout.

Tom Flanagan is a very memorably three-dimensional young protagonist, and all the conflicts of c
...more
Rick Urban
Aug 07, 2011 Rick Urban rated it it was amazing
During the extremely unsatisfying experience of reading Lev Grossman's "The Magicians", I kept thinking of how much better Straub's treatment of similar themes was, so literally the minute I finished "The Magicians" I went to my bookshelf and picked out this book to re-read. With it's nods to everything from Grimm's Fairy Tales to Hans Christian Andersen to John Fowles' The Magus, this is both a literate homage to the art of storytelling and a gripping story in its own right. The tale of two boa ...more
Gregor Xane
Nov 26, 2010 Gregor Xane rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2010
This was really a good book except for one scene involving Bugs Bunny. Bugs Bunny? Come on, someone should have told Mr. Straub to cut this scene. It added nothing and detracted from the overall mood of the book.
Henrik
Apr 29, 2009 Henrik rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those wanting to read intricate yet classic stories of the weird
Shelves: horror
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Nora Black
Mar 06, 2012 Nora Black rated it it was amazing
Often-times, the less fashionable is subjugated to the lower shelves of desirability, than the in-thing. In this way Peter Straub's tour-de-force- “Shadowland”, has been relegated to the untalked-about, the lesser-known realms of fantasy and magic. Making it a work that, sadly, few of the younger generation have read.

If the now people, readers of Erin Morgenstern, Casandra Clare and Suzanne Collins, opened their minds, they would discover MAGIC comparable to any flights of fantasy the aforement
...more
Kirsten
Jan 08, 2013 Kirsten rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-pre-12-07, own
This is one of my favorite of Peter Straub's novels. It's a creepy take on the idea of the Sorcerer's Apprentice -- only in this case, the sorcerer may be more dangerous than anything his apprentice can cook up. There are loads of references to fairy tales here, which are fun to try to place, and I love the way that Straub makes it difficult to figure out what's real magic and what's just sleight of hand.
Joe
Sep 07, 2015 Joe rated it it was amazing
Read this book again, some 30 years plus, after I first stole it out of my school library. Same edition, yellowed by time. I've always said this was one of my favourite horror novels, and this re-read, all these years later did nothing to dissuade me from this opinion. It's a classic horror tale, which upon second reading I see similarities in minor ways to Stephen King's The Shining.
In this book two boys spend a summer at a magician's house, the magician being the uncle of one of the boy's, Del
...more
Tony
Dec 30, 2015 Tony rated it it was ok
Shelves: abandoned
I tried so hard with this but it wouldn't hold my attention. I found myself unable to remember the characters and became tired waiting for something to happen.

I seem to remember something similar with Ghost Story and that grew into an excellent read. This however couldn't hold me through the build up.

Two stars because there is no fault in the style.
Patrick
Jul 03, 2009 Patrick rated it it was amazing
I read this book when I was a kid in high school. It is truely a horror about a boy who went to a school and finds an underlying secret club that practices real magic. It is done in subtle details and is why I constantly believe Peter Straub is a true magician with words himself. The story is told with such realism and the writing itself is lively, most particular the scene in which the boy is nailed to the wall. Perhaps, in the author's own study, I would go as far to believe there is a Number ...more
Tobin Elliott
I finally finished this train wreck of a novel. Another one that I read when it first came out, but I definitely had better memories of this than what I just experienced. I kept waiting for it to get good. I kept waiting for something to happen. I kept waiting for old men to stop pontificating about their life histories...because, didn't I just read that in Ghost Story?

I must say, the first, non-Shadowland third wasn't horrible. Mostly pointless, and could have been done in more like fifty pages
...more
Kevin Lucia
Apr 03, 2015 Kevin Lucia rated it it was amazing
Such a joy to re-read. One of those tales that alternatively leaves you gasping in awe, and feeling just the tiniest bit of despair, because you know it's impossible ever to match this as an author. But even so, loved it, and I'm still also amazed how much of my early reading of Straub played such a huge influence on me when I was first finding my "sea legs"...
John
Jan 08, 2014 John rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: horror
I have a love/hate relationship with Peter Straub. I love him for his beginnings and hate him for his endings. (Except in regard to GHOST STORY, which was pretty darn good all the way through.)
But on to SHADOWLAND.
As is often the case with a Straub novel, for the first 150 pages I was thinking, "This is fantastic!" It felt like reading something that Neil Gaiman and Clive Barker collaborated on.
That was the honeymoon phase of the book.
I have a lot of respect for Straub because his work is alw
...more
Chris Meger
Jun 02, 2008 Chris Meger rated it it was ok
This book is essentially a rehash of pretty much every other horror coming of age book. It's competent, but that's about it.
Will Waller
The final words of the book are "I turned back to walk across the ruins of Shadowland to my car." Thus ends one of the worst books I've read thus far. Is it bad because at times the plot settles into some fantastic journey into the mind of the sorcerer that the reader loses track of reality in the midst of fantasy? Is it bad because the symbolism of eerie houses, birds, songs, audiences, hearing voices (all of which could be simple and clear thematic elements to a horror book) become a boring an ...more
Tee Jay
Apr 13, 2010 Tee Jay rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: horror
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Nancy
Jan 09, 2013 Nancy rated it it was ok
I wanted to like this book. It had many elements that appealed to me: a dark and creepy private school, a fatherless boy who wanted to learn real magic, an eccentric uncle with a luxurious private estate, mystery, horror, fairy tales...

But unfortunately, it didn't live up to my hopes. The story plodded along endlessly. It didn't even get to the main premise of the book until about 150 pages in, and then it turned out to be mostly a surreal echo of the events that had gone before. The structure w
...more
Scott
Mar 20, 2016 Scott rated it really liked it
My Favorite Thing during the summer of 1981. Not surprisingly, it purposefully echoes one of my top five books of all-time, The Magus.

Edited to add: thank goodness neither of the two planned film adaptations of this ever came to fruition. While I could totally see Bill Nighy as Coleman Collins, I can't think of a filmmaker who could do the material justice. For a while I thought maybe Terry Gilliam, but it's just too dark for him.
Tom
May 10, 2016 Tom rated it liked it
Very difficult read that I am glad I stuck with. I am sticking to the middle in my review because I can understand both camps (the love and hate crowd) and I feel this is something you need to decide for yourself. Wow I guess it impacted me more than I thought :-)
Rick Soper
Dec 31, 2012 Rick Soper rated it it was amazing
This is one of my favorite books. There are just so many layers to it, some which are explained, and some that aren't, but in the end you just don't care because there so many visual images that get buried into your head that the entire experience of the book is just overwhelming. Uncle Coleman's tales just get under your skin. And whatever that thing is in Skeleton's room makes me shudder. And what the Grimm brothers are doing just popping up in the middle of thing, I'll never understand. But i ...more
Eric
Sep 06, 2007 Eric rated it it was amazing
Shelves: wouldreadagain
I read this on a train trip up to Vermont. I didn't realize before the trip that it was partly set in Vermont. So, it was a pleasant and fitting surprise. I'd wanted to read it ever since I was ten, when I saw the ad for it in the back of the "Darkfall" (Dean Koontz) paperback I was reading. It held up to the promise I'd expected, although I think it's better I read it so many years later, as an adult. My child self wouldn't have been patient enough to read this. Straub's style is too sophistica ...more
Leah Bayer
Apr 30, 2015 Leah Bayer rated it liked it
I really wanted to love this book. I adore Peter Straub, and so many people have told me that this is their favorite of his books. Alas, it was just not for me. It did have my favorite of his literary quirks, the book-in-the-book that's actually about the book (so meta, and at its best in The Hellfire Club), but it was significantly toned down here.

My main issue is that I just didn't find it scary. While Ghost Story kept me up at night, I found myself skimming the last 10% of Shadowland in an at
...more
Mark W. Coulter
Aug 09, 2014 Mark W. Coulter rated it it was ok
I normally enjoy Straub's writing and stories, but this one just didn't do it for me.

Part of it is that I was looking to read a good, old-fashioned horror novel like I haven't read in a while, and this falls more into the category of disjointed dark fantasy. But even in that case, it fell short for me in a few ways and couldn't even draw me into that type of story. I will say that there are some artful prose that are well done, and even that some of the tales couched inside could have been very
...more
Sam Reader
May 01, 2014 Sam Reader rated it it was amazing

"Long ago, when we all lived in the forest..."

And Peter Straub Month is brought to a smashing close with Shadowland. There is one sentence I can use to describe this book, one that I'm surprised I'm using, but one that makes perfect sense:

Shadowland is what would happen if Lev Grossman hadn't failed when he wrote The Magicians.

Now, that's a bold statement. And as a bold statement, it deserves some backing up, so here goes: With Shadowland, Peter Straub takes a few traditional concepts-- child
...more
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Peter Straub was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on 2 March, 1943, the first of three sons of a salesman and a nurse. The salesman wanted him to become an athlete, the nurse thought he would do well as either a doctor or a Lutheran minister, but all he wanted to do was to learn to read.

When kindergarten turned out to be a stupefyingly banal disappointment devoted to cutting animal shapes out of heavy
...more
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“You'll never get anything done if you walk around with an unchipped heart.” 14 likes
“To do magic, to do great magic, he has to know himself as a piece of the universe.

A piece of the universe?

A little piece that has all the rest of it in it. Everything outside of him is also inside of him.”
7 likes
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