The Hunting of Shadroth by Victor Kelleher, paperback novel, 192 pages, first published by Kestrel Books in 1981, this edition published by Puffin Books in 1983.
Young Tal is a member of the Clan, a people that live simply in cave dwellings overlooking the gentle rolling slopes down to the Greenlands, an area of thick jungle. Living in the Greenlands is the large cat-like creature known as the Feln, a gentle beast, living in peace with the Clan. However, when something kills some of the Clan’s cows, the chieftain, Kulok, blames the Feln and sets out to destroy them. Tal is forced onto the hunt, but cannot bring himself to kill the Feln, and is cast out of the Clan for cowardice. Tal knows that the Feln is not the problem, a malevolent force, known in legend as Shadroth, has risen in the Greenlands. It is up to Tal and his best friend, Lea, to travel beyond the Greenlands to seek help. It will take great courage and persistence to defeat Shadroth and bring peace to the Greenlands and the Clan once more. With the Feln and Lea by his side, Tal must face his fear and fight for all he has ever known.
As a child in primary school I was obsessed with Victor Kelleher, I read as many books by him as I could find, but The Hunting of Shadroth was my favourite, one that I read many times. I hadn’t read it for more than a decade though, until I came across this old copy in a secondhand book shop. I was a bit hesitant to start reading it in case it didn’t stack up to my memories of it, but I needn’t have worried! I found this to be as compelling a read now as it was when I was a child.
While it is a fantasy novel, it draws on many aspects of our own reality and history, and couples this knowledge with descriptive imagery to really bring the story to life. Following Tal and Lea on their adventure, their fight and their friendship with the Feln, I found myself racing through the pages, not wanting to put it down until I knew the outcome. Each time Shadroth appeared, I could image the terror he would induce among the Clan. He is a bit scary, and there are parts of the story that are quite dark. For this reason, The Hunting of Shadroth, while suitable for middle to upper primary school children based on reading and comprehension abilities, there are kids that may find it too frightening to read. Other children may find it more exciting than scary. My second grader has informed me that she will wait until she is a bit older, and that’s fine. While I wait for her to be ready, I will just have to re-read more of the Victor Kelleher books I so loved many years ago.