Elizabeth's Reviews > Shardik

Shardik by Richard  Adams
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really liked it
bookshelves: fantasy
Recommended for: Animal-lovers, Tolkien fans

Ever since I've read Watership Down I've been a big Richard Adams fan. This book makes for pretty heavy reading, and I won't deny it took me a while to get through it. The pacing could be quite slow at times, but I think it is well worth sticking through. Shardik is epic fantasy, and nothing at all like what he created in Watership Down. You could argue that the book isn't even about the bear, but the events that surround it.

One thing I first noticed about the book was how original the storyline seemed. Shardik tells the story of the giant eponymous bear that the Ortelgans (a tribe of the Beklan empire) believe to be the divine Power of God. He's discovered by a simple hunter, Kelderek (later the priest-king of Shardik) who declares that Shardik was sent to lead the Ortelgans to greatness and "reclaim" the empire's seat at Bekla. Unlike Adams's other books Watership Down and The Plague Dogs, the bear's perspective is only seen in the initial two chapters and for the remainder of the story he is a powerful and often antagonistic force that merely serves to set the wheels turning in the story.

What I loved in particular about this book was the imagery Adams is able to come up with. The first few paragraphs alone in chapter one has some of the most beautiful prose I've ever read. He does a wonderful and very plausible job of building up this world. There's something very ancient about Adams's world, even prehistoric. I recently learned that Shardik was the work Adams was most happy with, and I think I understand why. It's clear he's spent a lot of time creating his world, along with its geography and its flora and fauna. For the duration of the book, I got the feeling that this world wasn't just some fantasy world, but a world that might have been our own thousands of years ago.

While most of the characters are flawed and their actions evil, you don't find it hard to retain a certain sense of sympathy for their plight even as the novel progresses and the reality of Kelderek's crimes are made clearer and clearer. While the tone of the book can border along the preachy, what I enjoyed most about the story was that it was never made clear if Shardik really were a divine personification of some higher power or if it was superstition and just a twist of fate. Adams leaves us to decide ourselves as we like. The story has strong themes of redemption, suffering and mankind's spiritual search for God in the world.

I would recommend Shardik to anyone who really loves Adams's previous works, animal-lovers or anyone who appreciates the details that come with epic high fantasy.
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Reading Progress

February 15, 2009 – Shelved
February 15, 2009 –
page 567
Started Reading
February 16, 2009 – Shelved as: fantasy
February 16, 2009 – Finished Reading

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Roberto Penas "Prehistoric"- good term. Primitive, powerful, not your typical wizards in pointy hats fantasy. Heavy stuff,at times hard to digest but not a book easily forgotten. Good point about the bear, Adams deliberately leaves it vague if the bear's "divine powers" were real or simply imagined by the highly superstitious peoples.

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