Joan K. Lacy begins her Alex Cort Adventure Series in spectacular fashion with “A SHADOW AWAY.” According to her website, Lacy’s mission is “to offer entertaining stories that capture the imagination.” Well, I say she has certainly succeeded with the first installment of this series. Her story is thought-provoking and forces her readers to be just as creative as she is. I spent most of the novel just imagining what was coming next, which I was never able to predict.
Although this is an adventure novel, it provides a look into so many other realms. There’s the obvious folklore mixed with mythology and creative influence. But then there’s Lacy’s experience with archaeology and research. She has been an avid traveler for years and spent time learning other cultures. This was easily seen in her descriptions throughout the novel.
In the premiere installment, we meet private detective Alex Cort. We learn that he used to be a cop to appease his father, but prefers the intrigue of international art crime. He is hired by an archaeologist named Dr. Andrew Seaton to help find a statue stolen from his office. The two had worked together a few years prior when an artifact was stolen from Andrew’s dig in Egypt. Now, Dr. Seaton has found a golden relic that he thinks could lead to the lost city of El Dorado. Alex Cort heads out to South America, specifically Brazil, to solve the case. He is hesitant from the start once he researches El Dorado and sees that most explorers never came back. Andrew assures him that they have better chances because they have a map that didn’t exist previously.
While traveling up the Amazon River, Alex tells Angel, a seemingly magical woman he met in his travels, about his past; how his partner had been killed while trying to save Alex from an attacker. Angel tells him that he may have saved his partner in the past. She also speaks about time and how our futures are for us to mold ourselves. Within a few chapters, Alex has had enough of the magic that Angel is bringing about. In under fifty pages, Joan K. Lacy has already mentioned a number of interesting myths and legends that I needed to look into. She truly did her research.
Andrew and Alex started to worry about Guelf, a trader who was following their boat through the river, assumedly to steal their map. While focused on Guelf, another man boarded their boat with a knife. Luckily, Alex is a stealthy investigator and forced the man off the boat to swim to shore. But that was just the start of their dangerous encounters.
They faced off against a set of bandits with a knife in a small village. A landslide blocked the road that their bus was traveling on. Alex had a near run-in with a poisonous caterpillar. Trees in their path needed to be cut down to continue on. Snakes came from every direction around their feet. These are just a few of the smaller obstacles they faced.
There are many versions of magic depicted throughout. Villagers considers a section of the Amazon River to be magic. Two of its tributaries take opposing forms. One is a thick, white river filled with silt. The other is a deep black river caused by dying vegetation. Although the two meet, they do not immediately mix. The water doesn’t mix because of the density and speed of the liquid. Although this is true in real life, it is seen as magic to those living nearby.
After a bout with quick sand and then the smell of fire, we start to see the otherworldly magic that we’ve been expecting. And although it is very prominent in the second half of the book, I don’t want to ruin any of the surprises the readers will come in contact with thereafter. I will hint that a lot of the magic that you’ll read about has to do with Angel’s participation in the expedition.
Overall, I give this one a high recommendation for adventure lovers, and suggest keeping an eye out for the next book in the series, “ALL UNDER HEAVEN”. The second novel is set to release sometime this fall! According to Lacy’s website, the series looks like it will have a total of six novels, featuring a prequel and journeys through many areas of the world, including China, Ireland, and Egypt. I personally can’t wait to get my hands on each one as they come out!