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The Charwoman's Shadow
Lord Dunsany
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The Charwoman's Shadow

4.06  ·  Rating details ·  568 Ratings  ·  41 Reviews
An old woman who spends her days scrubbing the floors might be an unlikely damsel in distress, but Lord Dunsany proves once again his mastery of the fantastical. The Charwoman's Shadow is a beautiful tale of a sorcerer's apprentice who discovers his master's nefarious usage of stolen shadows, and vows to save the charwoman from her slavery.
Mass Market Paperback, 0 pages
Published September 12th 1977 by Random House Publishing Group (first published 1926)
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Oliviu Craznic
Do not let the uninspired (and uninspiring) cover of the Del Rey edition to keep you away from this masterpiece, an exquisite counterpart for the first Shadow Valley chronicle.
This time the protagonist follows not the ways of the sword, as Don Rodriguez did in the first chronicle, but the ways of the sorcery.
Extremely well written, very suspensfull, surprisingly funny and dark enough, „Charwoman`s Shadow” offers us also two great classic characters (and archetypes!): the plump, benevolent and sh
Jul 03, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I am willing to give Lord Dunsany the benefit of four stars, despite the rude connotation that Lord Vishnu is someone a follower of Dark Arts would pray to. Dunsany was a learned man and another book by him makes light of religion as such, so I was somewhat taken aback at this bigotry. Anyway, like I said, I'll not let that stand in my review of a book that I really enjoyed.
The story follows the travails of a young man, Ramon Alonzo who has to learn the art of making gold from a sorcerer so he c
Mary Catelli
A classic of the fantasy genre.

A lord of Spain summons his son Ramon and explains that while gold is indeed dross, it is nevertheless useful, especially since his daughter, Ramon's sister, Mirandola needs to be married and so have a dowry. Since they can not have Ramon work at a trade, he sends him off instead to learn from a magician how to make gold. (Fortunately, Ramon's grandfather had explained to a magician some of how to hunt boars, and he was grateful for it.)

There, Ramon finds the magic
Feb 07, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Perhaps Lord Dunsany's most accessible work, without ever losing his inimitable style in prose. The description of the "magic" inherent in learning how to read is among the finest moments in fantasy, and never fails to instill a sense of wonder, while most other authors struggle to keep fireballs, elves and dragons from seeming mundane and boring.
Fantasy isn't done like this anymore. This book isn't about world-building or plot so much as beautiful writing and the sense of time. It's hard to describe - something like scuba diving, where you find yourself submerged in a completely different world, things are hushed, the sea-life accepts you as another fish, there's the feeling of weightlessness and time doesn't pass in the way you're used to...? The other thing that impressed me about TCS was how Dunsany takes something very simple and ev ...more
Jan 08, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: library, want-to-own, 2014
01/2012 Dunsany is *brilliant*. I can't believe it took me so long to learn this. Also, I'm really glad that the LA library system had the book so I could read it. Beautiful language, haunting imagery, and a wonderful story. I first fell in love with Dunsany for his constant and evocative use of the word "gloaming".

03/2014 I like this book so much. I have such a hard time describing Dunsany. I just go into raptures and splutter incoherently while making expansive hand motions.
Jul 10, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Lord Dunsany's fantasy stories are not as twee as people often claim. Sometimes they can be ironic and dark, though they always remain lyrical and wistful. His later work is more humorous than his early stuff. By the time he turned from writing short stories to novels in the 1920s he had honed his musical, slightly mocking, always wondrous style to something approaching perfection.

*The Charwoman's Shadow* is a novel that bears linkages to his picaresque first novel *The Chronicles of Rodrigues*,
Althea Ann
Nov 24, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is one of those books that it’s a little bit embarrassing to admit that I hadn’t already read. I’ve read who knows how many tales that were influenced to some degree by Dunsany… but not a lot actually by him.

The Charwoman’s Shadow is a lovely, original fairy tale. In order to gain money for his daughter’s dowry, a father sends his son to apprentice to a magician, with the goal of discovering the method of turning lead into gold. But the magician asks high prices for his secrets. An old serv
Alex Sarll
A beautiful, bittersweet (but isn't Dunsany usually) tale of magic, bargains that should not have been struck, and the passing of Spain's Golden Age. Also a very good book to read across one summer's afternoon, as the shadows lengthen, for you come to appreciate that optical phenomenon as you never did before.
Jun 08, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I didn't like this one nearly as much as The King of Elfland's Daughter. The writing isn't nearly as beautiful and poetic and the story didn't feel as magical. Maybe because I found the characters shallow and unappealing and the ending predictable. Nonetheless it was still a nice fairytale worth reading.
Jul 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Prior to this, I had only read Lord Dunsany's short stories, and this was just as enchanting. His lyrical narrative is also matter-of-fact in certain ways, a balance that I find difficult to describe. The ending wasn't surprising to me, but it didn't need to be. It's been awhile since I've read a book whose style echoed for awhile in my thoughts, and indeed, I intend to go find his other novels now.
Fraser Sherman
Mar 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
Ramon, a Spanish youth of penniless aristocracy, cashes in an old debt to his ancestors so that a sorcerer takes him on as an apprentice and teaches him to make gold from base metal (Ramon's sister needs a big dowry and they are, as noted penniless). Despite the warnings from the mage's charwoman (housekeeper), Ramon sacrifices his shadow for knowledge then discovers that when people see you without a shadow, they freak. Can he recover his own shadow, let alone the charwoman's? Rescuing a housek ...more
Aug 03, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Charwoman’s Shadow, Lord Dunsany, Ballantine, 1973

Ramon Alonzo is a young man who has been sent to live with, and learn from, a famous wizard. He is only interested in how to turn base metals into gold. His sister is engaged to be married, and the family hopes that a small chest full of gold will suffice as a dowry.

While studying with the wizard, Ramon meets an elderly charwoman who has no shadow. The wizard took it many years ago, and refuses to give it back, keeping it in a locked box. She
Candice Lee
May 01, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A very interesting book. I don't know if Paul Coelho read it or not, but his book "The Alchemist" seems taken from its pages. Dare I say, "The Alchemist" is a shadow of "The Charwoman's Shadow"? It is almost a Dummies' Guide to it, but enough of that.

The Charwoman's Shadow has depth and humor most will not be intelligent enough to appreciate. This book comes from a golden age of books when people crafted a work to last. It is poetic, a bit critical of its characters, amusing, and profound. At i
Feb 18, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sff, 20th-century, 1920s
The 1970s were really the Golden Age - all the reprinting and rediscovery of earlier 20th century classics like Hope Mirrlees, E.R. Eddison, and Lord Dunsany! While low-budget paperbacks have their disadvantages (namely a lot of typos), just looking at the order forms in the back for these "affordable" books makes me nostalgic. (Side note: I bought this for $3 at a used bookstore near me, but the same store also had 70s Ballantine paperback editions of two other Lord Dunsany books that were wrap ...more
Jason Mills
Apr 07, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Fantasy buffs, ironists, lovers of language
Shelves: fiction, fantasy
Ramon Alonzo is a young man in Spain whose sister is to be married above her station. Since the family has no riches, Ramon's father sends him to a magician, there to learn the secret of making gold so that he can provide his sister's dowry. However, the magician exacts a high price for his wisdom, as his aged charwoman knows to her cost, having given up her shadow for longevity. Can Ramon save his family's honour and the charwoman's shadow, and still escape damnation?

This is a Faustian fable mi
Byron Norsworthy
Dec 20, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I picked this up because I kept hearing Lord Dunsany's name being invoked as one of the founding fathers of the fantasy genre. I had this caricature of him in my head as a pompous gentleman-of-liesure, who, writing during a time when it was the norm to write in a style characterized by vain, wordy descriptions and endless digressions, employed these strategies to the max. This book, however, is written very simply and elegantly, and the pacing is neither too fast nor too slow, but steady and com ...more
Chris Zull
Nov 10, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Lord Dunsany (real name Edward Plunkett) was the 18th Baron of Dunsany, the second oldest title of nobility in the Peerage of Ireland, having been created in the 15th century. He also happens to be one of the most influential pre-Tolkien fantasists. His name has sadly faded from the popular conscious, but one look at the list of writers who cited Dunsany as a significant influence tells the tale of his far reach: Tolkien, H.P. Lovecraft, Neil Gaiman, Arthur C. Clarke, Gene Wolfe, Ursula K. Legui ...more
Jun 24, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Definitely an odd book -- but I am glad I read it! Absolutely gorgeous writing -- which, however, swings between the highly evocative and the deliberately absurd. The quote about dog-scientists is quite well known, I believe, but consider this one, too.

And there was a repast all ready cooked and spread, waiting for Ramon Alonzo. By what arts those meats were kept smoking upon that table ready for any stranger that should come in from the wood, ....I tell not to this age, for it is far too well a
Jan de Leeuw
Mar 22, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Excellent, truly excellent fantasy book. Ramon Alonzo goes to the magician to learn to make gold for his family, and the magician accept him as a pupil because long ago Ramon Alonzo's father taught him the science and philosophy of boar hunting. But there is a price: he has to give the magician his shadow. He gets a fake shadow back, but that shadow does not grow or shrink during the day, and also in this world man leads the shadow, but in the hereafter the shadow leads the man. Ramon Alonzo tri ...more
Jan 18, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
After seeing this selection in my father's reading carel I asked him about the author in order to decide if it might be worth my time to read this title. His classic response sounded like the same standard recommendation that you'll see anytime you look up Lord Dunsany. Since I was curious about the fantasy genre, I picked it up and was carried away into one of the most enriching fantasies that I have ever read. I'm recommending this to everybody that has even a few hours to spare for this engag ...more
Printable Tire
Jun 07, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Just finished this near the end of my graveyard shift, as the dawn arises. A superior book to the King of Elfland's Daughter, if only because it contains conversations and dialogue. Dunsany can be a funny writer at times, and I enjoyed the mystery he embodied (or disembodied) within the shadow- what a good puppet show this book would make. The hero was a bit of a bonehead, and perhaps the conflicts too easilly overcome, and obviously so. Nonetheless a great work of fantasy.

Dunsany's criticism o
Verity Brown
Feb 17, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wow! Stylistically, this is one of the most amazing books I've ever read. As a writer, I'm aware of the constant quest for better metaphors and less cliched descriptions, and Dunsany pretty much blows everyone else away here. And not just for a pretty sentence or two here and there...I'm talking paragraph after paragraph of remarkable prose. The story, too, is both deeply rooted in fairy tales and yet unconventional in execution and resolution. Nothing is quite what it seems.

Something to conside
Jul 24, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Briefly: Dunsany is known as one of the fathers of modern fantasy. Alright- well enough. But what was likely fresh in the late nineteenth century now read like an exercise in style over substance. That is to say, the plot doesn't ever become terribly interesting and peaks well before the end. I read the first 200 quickly and struggled through the final 40 months later. But, on a page to page basis, Dunsany is one of the finest purveyors of metaphor I've encountered. 4 stars on the merits of his ...more
Jan 01, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I've never read much Dunsany. It was worth giving this a try, but it didn't really hold my attention, I'm afraid. The language is charming -- that's the best part. The story is just a story.

It's not an *absolutely* straight-faced fairy tale. Everyone is just a little bit slyer and more conniving than that. (I guess Jack Vance's "Cugel" stories are this raised to the hundredth power?) But I bogged down halfway through, put it aside, and didn't finish it off until several weeks later.
It was a bit of an odd book, but considering it was written in the 1920's it was pretty good. This book is considered one of the first fantasy novels written, and Lord Dunsany is one of the first fantasy writers. The overall book was okay, but if you looked past all the old fashioned writing, the story that is revealed is very good.
Feb 15, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
I'm only giving this book three stars, but it probably deserves 4. But I rated it compared to Dunsany's other works, and for me it is just not as good.

I DID really like the Spanish setting, the forest imagry, and the straight forward fantasy feel. It was the plot that I felt was lacking.

Definitly worth reading if you are interested in classic fantasy.
Jan 24, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy, unfinished
I have to admit that I only made it through 30 pages (and that was a struggle). I simply didn't like the writing style, and the story didn't grab me enough to make up for it. I do enjoy some fantasy, but not this one.
Nov 03, 2007 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
1926 fantasy novel before there was a "fantasy" genre. Beautiful language set in the Golden Age of Spain. Could be a little slow for some people...but if the mythology of shadows is a fetish of yours, this will take you to sublime places.
May 21, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: so-close
Although well written, I wouldn't recommend this to anyone not already interested because the antiquated prose/plot/characters are significant obstacles; that said, the ending was unexpected and intriguing.
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Edward John Moreton Drax Plunkett, 18th Baron of Dunsany was an Anglo-Irish writer and dramatist, notable for his work in fantasy published under the name Lord Dunsany. More than eighty books of his work were published, and his oeuvre includes hundreds of short stories, as well as successful plays, novels and essays. Born to one of the oldest titles in the Irish peerage, he lived much of his life ...more
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“There is indeed a great deal of futility amongst the human race which we do not commonly see, for it all forms part of our illusion; but let a man be much annoyed by something that others do, so that he is separated from them and has to leave them, and looks back at what they are doing, and he'll see at once all manner of whimsical absurdities that he had not noticed before; and Ramon Alonzo in the shade of his oak, waiting for the noon to go by, grew very contemptuous of the attitude that the world took up towards shadows.” 6 likes
“For he had acquired a lore in his youth which taught him ever to avoid the aged when merry plans were afoot; for the aged would come with their wisdom and slowness of thought, and other plans would be made, and there would be, at least, delay.” 2 likes
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