In the gated community of the financial elite that makes up the Commonwealth of Richford Isles, William Schoenhausen, a naïve teenage heir to the Bernhard Schoenhausen fortune and legacy, begins a new term at the prestigious Richtown University. Looking for a way to show himself as worthy, mostly through a cunning scheme of odds and academic adulation, his easy-street plans are quashed when the school’s most popular girl, Julia Rechstaadt, happens to enrol in the school’s least popular course, an enrollment chosen as key part of Will’s scheme of flattery.
When every boy with intentions on Julia follows in their footsteps, Will’s plan is in ruin, but new frontiers are about to open up for the cloistered youth in its stead. With a vaguely psychotic self-acknowledged literary genius as a lecturer, the vague ire of a classmate, and no shortage of storied family, friends, and mere acquaintances, the multi-faceted story of Will and the Richford Isles unfolds part-by-part in Shadows of Us: A Novel by L. N. Nino.
Nino has been a long-time writer of short fiction and novellas, with published works including Atoms and Other Small Pieces, The Brain Within its Groove, and The Gray Man, but Shadows of Us marks his first intrepid voyage into the realms of a full-length novel. Like his previous works, Shadows of Us is written in Nino’s signature florid and effusive writing style and makes use of vast amounts of literary references throughout.
While at times masterful and evocative, to the less literary-inclined reader a single page of reading may be beyond reasonable comprehension as Nino invokes Macbeth and Odysseus to demonstrate even as much as a point on teenage frustrations. The writing is heavy, and difficult to parse at times even for more classically-inclined readers who may find the constant references to greater works to be inappropriate, or perhaps apery. This excessive style, however, does suit the excessive and academically-imperious tone of Richford and the many pompous inhabitants, and is a style often dialed down when concerning more down-to-earth matters of the story.
This cover is slightly foreboding, something which seems imminently inappropriate as the plot never quite thickens to an exceptionally threatening or darkened subject, mostly besides the psyche of teenagers and jealous adults. Something more representative would have been useful, as while the book follows themes from Nino’s other works, it still takes some time to discover what the book is truly intending to be about, something not bridgeable from the book’s cover, let alone its first chapters. The plot is very slow, careful, and much more concerned with the details than the destination.
The book has a few other issues, mostly in that despite its rich manner of writing it still remains marred with enough editorial errors to be noticeable. Several characters also seem to receive very little depth, even when developed to some degree in the book, however this seems to reflect the paths they are locked into by fate. Overall, Shadows of Us is another interesting new take on older, somewhat Gothic fiction, a formula that Nino has only experimented with in short fiction before. This experiment into a longer format has been successful, and I hope the “next last book” from this author is even better than this one.