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Literature / Jack of Shadows

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Jack of Shadows is a Science Fantasy novella by Roger Zelazny, which was published in 1971. It is set on a world that does not rotate, so that one side is always facing toward the sun and one side is always facing away. On the Dayside, high-tech science rules, while the Nightside is home to magical creatures.

The titular Jack is a Nightside dweller, but one with a unique quirk - instead of having his power bound to a specific location like everyone else, it is drawn from the shadow itself. This means that he is helpless in daylight or in pure darkness (since shadows are cast by the light), but enormously powerful once he finds any shadow to nest in.

This novella features examples of:

  • Eternal Engine: There is a Machine at the Heart of the World (the purpose of which is to stop the Earth from rotating).
  • Evil Overlord: A fair approximation of what Jack becomes.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: Certain Darksider names, such as "The Colonel Who Never Died," and "The Key That Was Lost."
  • Good Smoking, Evil Smoking: Jack picks up the habit dayside.
  • In the Hood: Jack wears one.
  • Irony: Jack escapes his imprisonment by the Lord of Bats by forging his name on the Compact as current protector of the Shield. He notes that his opponent was the true guardian, and that if either of them had been minding their actual business, none of the plot would have happened.
  • Impossible Task: Stealing the Hellflame for Evene's bride-price.
  • Mayfly–December Romance: Jack and Rosalie. He promised to come back for her...and does—an unspecified number of decades later, long after she has grown old and begun to resent the fact.