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F&SF MiniReview: The Diamond Shadow, by Fred Chappell

What I enjoyed most about The Diamond Shadow was the fullness of the background. I have not read any of Fred Chappell’s other excursions into this universe; but I get the sense that this is familiar terrain. This is certainly not (in this case) a bad thing.

For those of you who have not been introduced to the setting, it appears to me to be a fantasy realm similar to a Renaissance Italy with a magic system based on shadows and gems. The magic isn’t spectacular, but more craft-like — shadows are prepared and worn, and the power of gems can be exploited and manipulated by their environment and nearby jewels.

The Diamond Shadow is told from the perspective of Falco, an apprentice to the well-known shadow thief, Astolfo. Astolfo plays the role of wiley thief, grim teacher, and studious detective. The story centers around a mystery; a diamond that is developing an internal shadow, and the Countess Triana who finds herself losing part of herself.

The story is good; it is well-paced and has a good deal of action and intrigue, but the setting is what makes this story a winner.

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