Shon the Taken by Tanith Lee
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This is a slim book published 33 years ago. I'm a fan of Tanith Lee and have read many of her books. Shon the Taken is not one of her best books, but it was still enjoyable. The story centers on the title character Shon who lives in a simple village full of many superstitions. One of those superstitions is that east of the village, across the river, is the home of Death and his people, also called King Crow and Crow's children. These dark beings hunt the woods between the village and Death's city, and anyone they touch becomes possessed and must be killed. Shon is caught one night in the woods by Crow's children and returns to his village only to be put on trial and sentenced to death by stoning. He escapes and sets out to get revenge on King Crow and his people who have completely ruined his life.
One thing Lee excels at is maintaining a sense of mystery about a place or person. Shon doesn't understand many of the things that happen to him and worse for him, he has become a mystery to himself. The strangeness of everything is very intriguing and kept me reading. This is a good book to a read on a lazy afternoon. I was surprised to see in the publishing details that this was originally published by Macmillan Children's Books. Shon is only a teenager, but some of the stuff he goes through seems kind of weighty for a child to fully comprehend. Lee has written other juvenile literature like the Unicorn series and The Claidi Journals, which all seemed very appropriate for juvenile literature (and highly enjoyable). Shon the Taken reminded me more of The Birthgrave Trilogy or the Four-BEE Series, which are classed adult fiction. Putting the question of juvenile versus adult fiction aside, I don't think there is anything truly objectionable in the story for a young teen, and maybe what Shon goes through would resonate with a younger reader more than it did for me.
Really, Lee writes with such a deft hand that the plot flows effortlessly. I think many would enjoy this story, especially if you enjoy reading about mysterious people and places. All the mysteries are answered at the end and everything concludes satisfactorily and the journey to the conclusion is enjoyable. The story doesn't seem dated at all but is rather timeless.
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