Faithful Shadow is novel I find myself having a difficult time reviewing. On the one hand, the structure frustrated me to no end, especially Kevin J. Howard's use of short (sometimes exceptionally so) chapters. I've never been a fan of short chapters, preferring instead to be drawn in and deeply immersed in the story, so that kept me at a distance. The third person omniscient narrative bothered me as well, especially when the POV shifted characters within a scene, or divulged too much information to which the characters aren't privy.
On the other hand, I liked the uniqueness of the setting, and the novelty of the monster. There's a reason so many horror movies are set either in the wild, uncontrollable expanse of the outdoors, or the close, claustrophobic confines of an abandoned building. Howard takes advantage of both settings, dragging the reader out into the woods above and caverns below Yellowstone National Park, à la Friday the 13th, and into the shadowy halls of the Old Faithful Inn, à la The Shining. Both work very well on their own, and the contrast between them adds a really exciting edge to the story. As for the monster, the less you know going in, the greater the horror, so I won't say much more than I liked it a lot.
As for the characters, they fall somewhere in between. Reasonably well-developed, if not necessarily likeable, they're sufficient to move the story along, but never really endear themselves to the reader. Like the characters in one of those horror movies I mentioned earlier, they primarily serve as fodder for the monster, leaving the reader to play the old guessing game as to who will die first, and who will survive to the end. They're clearly defined, and have their own personalities, I just didn't find myself caring much about them - which, in the case of a story like this, is perfectly fine.
Overall, an above average concept, with an average execution. Readers who don't share my structural pet peeves will likely find a greater enjoyment in the story, but even those who do will find enough originality here to warrant a read.Originally reviewed at Beauty in Ruins