A gripping tale of war, adventure, horror, and romance, Shardik is a remarkable exploration of mankind's universal desire for divine incarnation.
Richard Adams' Watership Down was a number-one New York Times best seller, a stunning work of the imagination, and an acknowledged modern classic. In Shardik, Adams sets a different yet equally compelling tale in a far-off fantasy world.
Shardik is a fantasy of tragic character, centered on the long-awaited reincarnation of the gigantic bear Shardik and his appearance among the half-barbaric Ortelgan people. Mighty, ferocious, and unpredictable, Shardik changes the life of every person in the story. His advent commences a momentous chain of events.
Kelderek the hunter, who loves and trusts the great bear, is swept up by destiny to become first devotee and then prophet, then victorious soldier, then ruler of an empire and priest-king of Lord Shardik - messenger of God - only to discover ever-deeper layers of meaning implicit in his passionate belief in the bear's divinity.
©1974, 2014 Richard Adams (P)2016 Blackstone Audio, Inc.
I absolutely loved Watership Down, and I was hoping that I would enjoy this as much (on hearing the author say it was his best work). I was a bit disappointed. It was a very different type of story, and it was missing some of the warmth and camaraderie that characterized Watership Down. The story was quite dark in many places, and there was little lightheartedness to be found anywhere else in it. As an agnostic, I suppose that some of the story's religious allegories were less important to me than they might have been to someone who was deeply religious. I could see the points he was making, but the questions he spent so much time trying to answer were not ones that occupy my mind much. Still, it was a well told story.
I have really liked some of the reader's other work (his reading of China Mieville's work for instance), but his reading of Shardik seemed in some places to be tonally at odds woth the work itself. A bright, clipped, cheerful English accent seems out of place when the subject matter involves depression, battlefields, or other kinds of darkness. I would have liked the reading more if the tone of the reader had more closely tracked the tone of the work as it was read. With that said, I enjoy this reader very much in general, and I think he does a very good job overall.
This is a very good book by Adams, but if you're looking for more Watership Down this isn't it. Also, if you're looking into this book because of its connection to the Dark Tower series by Stephen King, you also may be disappointed. Adam's world building is at its finest here, and his character's journey is very interesting. John Lee's narration is, as always, top notch and kept me interested even when things got slow.
This story serves as one of the major inspirations to Stephen King's "The Dark Tower" series. Not just way of using the giant bear "Shardik" as one of the characters, but in the speech and mannerisms of the people. It was great to see where some of this came from.
The story itself is great as you follow an uneducated hunter through his journey alongside Shardik. Watching pure intentions turn to corruption at the hands of soldiers and politicians idea of the greater need.
The Bear is a symbol of power that can not be easily defined or interpreted because at the end of the day it's just a bear. All violence, all hunger, all softness, all peace.
And Shardik after all is a bear. A huge bear, but a bear.
Shardik is one of the classics I've always wanted to get to. It is rather long so you need to settle into the world Adams has created. It is a bit Tolkien-ish in its world building aspect, but there is no magical element, unless you count the bear himself. It is not strictly about Shardik himself, but rather his influence over those around him. In certain aspects it reminds me a little of Moby in that so much depends upon how the characters, and reader, interpret Shardik's actions and presence. And there is much about the use and abuse of power and the usurpation of Shardik's "existence" for self gain or political reasons. I also noticed how often there is fire imagery throughout the novel, in conjunction with Shardik and in general and when you finish re-listen to wonderful opening to see how the end in a sense is contained in the beginning. I have always thought the opening chapters describing the jungle etc were beautifully written. Deceptively well constructed novel.
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