Paperback: 352pp

Published: Lightning Books (July 2022)

ISBN: 9781785633010

Son of Shadow

John Lenahan


From the author of the Shadowmagic trilogy

A world of faeries, leprechauns and dragons – and magic fuelled by the blood of trees.

A mystery portal to the Real World.

And a pair of curious young adventurers who know they shouldn’t step through it…

Meet Fergal the Second, nicknamed ‘two’. Or ‘Doe’, in his own language. He can do magic. But, for the moment, he’s forgotten where he’s from. Or what’s happened to his blind friend Ruby.

He’s actually from Tir na Nog, the enchanted world of Shadowmagic, where a new generation of the royal House of Duir are cheeking their parents, preparing for adulthood and itching to see the Real World for themselves – whatever the peril.


‘Look, kid, just tell me what you did with the coin and we can make this all go away.’

It wasn’t a ridiculous question but at the time I thought Officer Billingham was being a bit thick.

‘I told you,’ I said. ‘I made it vanish.’

The policeman gave me an exasperated look.

‘You know that’s the same look my…my…my…’ That’s when it happened again. The thought was there but just at the moment when I tried to access it…it was gone – slipped out of reach. ‘Damn it,’ I said. ‘What is wrong with my brain?’



‘Look, kid, just tell me what you did with the coin and we can make this all go away.’

It wasn’t a ridiculous question but at the time I thought Officer Billingham was being a bit thick.

‘I told you,’ I said. ‘I made it vanish.’

The policeman gave me an exasperated look.

‘You know that’s the same look my…my…my…’ That’s when it happened again. The thought was there but just at the moment when I tried to access it…it was gone – slipped out of reach. ‘Damn it,’ I said. ‘What is wrong with my brain?’

‘Ok, son, from the top. You say you woke up on Spruce Street?’

‘I didn’t wake up – I was just standing there… By the way, where are the Spruce trees?’

The policeman ignored my question. ‘And you don’t know how you got there?’


Billingham leaned in and looked closely into my eyes. ‘Where do you come from? Where’s home?’

‘I’m from…ah…’ I hit my head with the palm of my hand. ‘Oh, the answer is so close,’ I said, pointing to my forehead. It’s like there’s a Muirbhrúcht in my head.’

‘A what? In your head?’

‘A Muirbhrúcht.’

‘What’s a mail book?’

‘It’s a…’ Again the answer slipped just out of reach. I flailed my hand in front of my face, hoping that that would release something. ‘Damn it. What is wrong with me?’

‘OK, relax, kid. So you appeared in Spruce Street and you do what?’

‘Well, I freaked out a little bit. It’s crazy there.’

‘Yeah, I’ll give you that.’

‘And then I saw a samochod and then another. There were so many and they went so fast.’


‘The machines with the wheels. Oh, I mean cars. Sorry, in English it’s cars.’

‘And what language is samochod?’


‘You speak Polish?’


‘Are you maybe from Poland?’

I shrugged. ‘Maybe.’

Billingham shook his head. ‘And you were freaked out by cars. Don’t they have cars in Poland?’

‘I don’t know.’

‘You just said you were from Poland.’

‘No I didn’t; you did.’

The policeman raised his voice. ‘Then why are you calling cars, samoshooes or whatever?’

‘Oh, because there were some people on Spruce Street and when I asked them what those noisy contraptions were, they spoke Polish.’

‘Lucky for you they didn’t speak Japanese.’

‘Indeed, my Japanese isn’t anywhere near as good as my Polish.’

‘You speak Japanese?’ Billingham asked, incredulously.








‘You don’t speak Greek?’

‘Yes, I do. Na means yes in Greek.’

‘Oh. Klingon?’


‘So there’s no Star Trek where you come from?’

‘What is Star Trek?’

‘Alright, alright. So, you woke up in downtown Scranton and conversed in Polish – then what?’

‘Well, I was afraid to cross the path with all of the samo…cars, so I walked on the white road next to the black road to a place that looked quieter.’

‘Adams Street.’

I shrugged.

‘And then you snuck into the magic convention at the Hilton Hotel?’

‘I didn’t sneak in,’ I said. ‘I saw the sign for the Scranton Magician’s Convention and went inside, looking for answers.’

‘Answers to what?’

‘Where I was. Who I am.’

‘And you thought magicians would have those kinds of answers.’

‘Of course.’

‘Didn’t anyone stop you?’

‘Oh yes, one man looked at my clothes and said, ‘You must be one of the gala performers,’ and before I could answer a cricket chirped in his pocket. He took this little cricket box out of his pocket and spoke to the cricket. After that he didn’t seem interested in me, so I just went inside. In the room there was a table with a group of men. One of them was incanting over paper marked with runes and numbers.’

‘What kinds of runes?’

‘There were black clovers and red hearts.’

‘Let me guess, they don’t have playing cards where you come from either?’

‘Playing cards?’

‘Never mind. Go on.’

‘So I sat and watched, not wanting to disturb him. The rune cards had powerful magic. Some changed while he held them. I didn’t know what the results meant but the others at the table must have been happy with the prediction because they all applauded.’

‘You’re pulling my leg?’

I looked under the table and saw nothing. ‘If someone is pulling your leg it is not me. That is very strange.’

The policeman sighed and testily said, ‘Go on.’

When the man was finished with his runecasting he noticed me and asked if I was a magician.’

‘And are you?’

‘I must be because I said, “yes”. Then he handed me his coin and said, ‘Let’s see a vanish.’ I said I didn’t know what he was talking about but he explained that he wanted to see how I made a coin vanish. I took it and asked if he was sure because it looked like a very nice coin. They all laughed and assured me that it was alright – so I placed it on my palm, incanted and sent it into the ether.’

‘And how did you do it?’

‘Well, like I said, I’m pretty sure I’m a magician.’

He ground his teeth together and asked what happened next.

‘They were all delighted with the vanish. It was like they had never seen anything dematerialise before. So I then said I needed help with my problem. The man who gave me the coin said he would be delighted to help me as soon as I gave him his coin back. I was confused and said, ‘Didn’t you ask me to vanish it?’ He kept saying that he didn’t think I was funny and I kept trying to explain that his coin was gone. They all became very upset and then they called you people.’

‘So where is the coin now?’

‘Haven’t you been listening to me? Why can’t you people get it through your heads? It’s gone!’

‘Don’t take that tone with me son. You are in a lot of trouble. That was a very special coin. It was,’ he looked at the paper in front of him, ‘a gold-gilded mint-proof silver crown. The magician doesn’t want to press charges; he just wants his coin back.’

I held my head in my hands. ‘Then why did he ask me to make it disappear?’

Billingham leaned back in his chair and started to laugh. ‘This is a joke, right? Where’s the camera? I know they have tiny ones these days.’ He looked around and behind him then said, ‘Stand up.’

I stood. He first looked carefully at my chest then in my hair. When he felt my left sleeve, I winced.

‘Take off your shirt.’

I did and was surprised to find a bandage on my upper arm that was stained with blood. Officer Billingham called for a med kit and a very nice healer came in. She put on the thinnest pair of gloves I had ever seen and unravelled the bandages. Underneath were almost fifty cuts in lines and crosses. They had stopped bleeding but were quite sore.

‘What happened here, son?’ Billingham asked.

Again the answer came to me then fled from my mind but I saw enough of it to answer, ‘I did that.’  

The policeman told me that he ‘hadn’t bought the “amnesia bull” but self-harming was enough to get me a shrink.’

So they took my belt and put me in a dungeon with an unconscious man who smelled pretty bad. When he woke up he told me he had an awful headache so I asked the guard for some Willow tea but he laughed at me.

Sometime later I was given what was described as a baloney and cheese sandwich, which was very pleasant. Finally, a young social worker came and asked me the same questions Officer Billingham had asked, and then asked to see the cuts on my arm. When I asked him what he thought, he said that he was not supposed to say but he was pretty sure I was ‘crazy’. I said I didn’t feel crazy but he assured me that the crazy ones never do.  

That night I was taken to a place that was really white and bright and all of the surfaces were covered with this really thin stuff that I at first thought was marble but people told me was called ‘plastic’. They took my clothes and made me wear a thin white thing that didn’t cover me up in the way I was used to. I was introduced to a man with the largest neck I had ever seen. He said his name was Vince. He said as long as there was no ‘funny business’ that we would get along.  

I was given some food that was awful and then Vince marched me in to see The Shrink. I was hoping that he had some answers but my first impression was that he didn’t like me very much.  

He wore a white coat and sat behind a desk that had a block of wood on it that read Dr Neil Ferguson. The rest of the desk was covered with piles of papers. He lifted up his glasses and bent forward to read one. Then he leaned back and sighed.

‘So, Mr Doe, you have amnesia?’

Boom! That sentence hit me like a rock. A tiny piece of the wall that my memory had been hiding behind broke through. ‘Yes, yes, that’s my name. How did you know?’

He dropped his glasses back down onto his nose, looked up at me, sighed, then he slid the glasses back up to the top of his head and read. ‘Reporting Officer Billingham. Subject: John Doe, amnesia, self-harm.’ Ferguson tossed the paper onto the hundreds of others on his desk and sighed again. ‘It’s good of the officer to give a neurological diagnosis. I wonder where he went to medical school.’

‘No, John’s not my name but Doe is. You know, like ha, doe, tree.’

Ferguson tilted his head like a lost puppy.

‘Ha, do, tree,’ I repeated. ‘You know, one, two, three?’

‘What language is this?’

‘It’s…you know the regular language.’

‘Look, Mr Two.’

‘No,’ I corrected, ‘it means two but my name is Doe.’

Sigh. ‘So, Mr Doe, you say you have amnesia.’

‘No, I don’t.’

‘You don’t have amnesia?

‘Do I?’

‘Don’t you?’

‘I’m sorry, Mr Shrink, I don’t know what am-maw-sa is.’

‘You’ve never heard of amnesia? And my name is Dr Ferguson.’

‘No…Dr Ferguson.’

‘Amnesia is when you…say…don’t know your name.’

‘I do know my name. It’s Doe.’

Sigh. ‘Do you know your first name?’

‘Yes… It’s Doe.’

‘Oooo-K, how about your last name?’

I thought about that for a while and said, ‘Nope. Just the one.’

Dr Ferguson smiled to himself. ‘Which means two.’

‘Excuse me, Dr Ferguson, I’d be careful. Vince said “no funny stuff”.’

‘Where are you from?’

‘Ahhh…’ I shook my head.

‘Parents? School? Friends?’

‘I…want to tell you and I feel like I almost can but then the Muirbhrúcht.’

‘The what?’

‘Muirbhrúcht. PC Billingham asked what that was and I don’t know that either. It’s like there is a wall in my head and important things just can’t get through.’

The doctor took off his glasses and rubbed his eyes with his palms. ‘Here’s the thing, Mr Doe. Amnesia doesn’t work like that. With amnesia the subject is almost always pretty messed up. The vast majority of amnesiacs are victims of major trauma, with the patient presenting with difficulties not only cognitively but also physically: i.e. trouble walking, talking and general coordination. You, sir, are reasonable and lucid. I find it very convenient that the only things you can’t remember are the things that might help the police charge you with a crime.’

‘So you don’t think I have amnesia?’


‘So what do I have?’

He chuckled. ‘Well, you seem to have persistence. How about your arm? Why did you cut yourself?’

‘I don’t know.’

‘You remember doing it though?’

‘No, sir.’

‘PC Billingham says you told him that you did it to yourself.’

‘I did but I don’t remember it.’

‘If you don’t remember it how do you know you did it?’

‘Because… Because I almost remember it. As it came to me I knew that I had done it to myself and I knew that it was important but then…’

‘Important how?’ the doctor said, showing interest for the first time.

I rubbed my forehead, trying in vain to shake something out of my head. Then it was my turn to sigh.

‘OK, Doe, relax. Let’s talk about this coin you stole.’

‘I didn’t steal it. The magician told me to make it vanish. I said, “Are you sure?” and he said “Yes”. So I did.’

‘Where did it go?’

‘Into the ether. Why is this so hard for you people to understand? He asked me to make it disappear!’

‘OK, Doe, calm down, calm down. Here.’ Ferguson reached into his pocket and presented a small silver coin. ‘Can you do it again?’

‘Gods, no. I’m in enough trouble already.’

‘I promise Doe if you make that vanish I won’t mind.’ He handed me a coin.

‘You won’t be able to have it back.’

‘I don’t care. It’s only a quarter.’

‘A quarter of what?’

‘A quarter of a dollar. You do know about money, right?’

I shook my head no.

Dr Ferguson reached behind him and brought out a leather wallet from which he extracted an ornate piece of paper that had a drawing of a man’s face in the middle. ‘So you are telling me you have never seen a dollar bill before?’


‘This is a quarter of that?’ I said, pointing to the coin, then the bill.

‘That’s right.’

‘Four metal coins equal one piece of parchment?’


I picked up the bill. ‘What does the dollar do?’

‘It doesn’t do anything; it’s money. You buy goods and services with it.’

‘Oh,’ I said. ‘It’s a promissory note. You give people this and then they promise to give you gold.’

Dr Ferguson looked confused. ‘No… Actually, now that I think about it…it used to be like that, but not now. But we are getting off-topic. You were going to make my quarter disappear.’

‘Are you sure?’

‘Yes,’ he said, sounding annoyed, but then he calmed himself and said, ‘yes’.

‘Seems a waste, but OK.’ I picked up the coin and laid it on my palm. Almost immediately I knew it wasn’t going to work but I stretched my senses into the metal to be sure. ‘Nope, can’t do it.’

‘Now there is a surprise. Why can’t you do it?’

‘There is no longer gold in this coin. It must be used up.’

‘There was never gold in this quarter,’ the doctor said.

‘Why would you make coins with no gold in them?’

‘So you are saying you can only make gold coins disappear?’

‘Well, duh,’ I said.



‘I loved this from the first page. I was literally grinning from the opening paragraph on. The writing is brilliant and if you are a fan of fairies, Irish myths, Tir na Nog and, above all, good, witty writing then you must read this book’

The Book Dude *****

‘One of my favourite books of the year. I’m always looking for a good fantasy with clever writing and a bit more humour than the normal fare and it really delivered on all counts’

Good Reads Mob *****

Son of Shadow provided a wonderful sense of escapism and was really easy to read. The pages sped past. Highly recommended to fans of magic and fantasy – I think you’ll love it’

The Pursuit of Bookiness

‘A fantastic story exploring Celtic mythology. The end is thrilling and builds your expectation for the next book’

Summon Fantasy

Son of Shadow is one of my favourite reads this year. I enjoy books with portals and parallel worlds, and Doe’s reactions to our world and his interactions with people in this world was hilarious. I can’t wait to read the second part of this trilogy’

Series Book Lover

‘A man who awakes and cannot remember anything about himself but can inexplicably do magic is a fascinating way to start a fantasy book. A great mix of magic, humour and fast-paced action. I would highly recommend Son of Shadow

A Cascade of Books

‘I really enjoyed this book. Doe is such a likeable character and I loved the contrast between the Real World and Tir na Nog. I can’t wait to read more of Doe’s adventures’

Thoughts of the Reader

‘A great fantasy that explores Celtic mythology. I love the world building. The descriptions are beautifully written and I really like the magic system, but the real showstopper was the characters. If you’re a fan of fantasy, check Son of Shadow out’

Jessica Belmont

‘I was captivated by the atmosphere of Tir na Nog and I can’t wait to continue with this series. If you love folklore, fun and really well written fantasy, pick up this book’

Holly Loves Books

‘The author has a very special writing style that I love – it’s kind of funny and sarcastic at times but very subtly so, adding a layer of lightness, quirk and fun. If you’re a fan of mythology, magic, and fast-paced fantasies, you should definitely give Son of Shadow a go’  

The Artsy Reader

‘Incorporating characters and beings from Irish mythology, this is a fun, YA adventure story about family, friendship and magic’

Rambling Mads

‘Part 1 made me feel like I was watching an American cop drama or The X-Files. Part 2 is more like The Lord Of The Rings. I found this story a really enjoyable read’

Kinkajous Read Too

‘A fun and fast-paced fantasy story with quirky characters similar to the Artemis Fowl series’

Tessa Talks Books

‘A fast-paced fantasy novel with amazing world building and a great cast of characters’

The Euphoric Nat

‘The world building, especially Tir na Nog, is exceptional. I’m already looking forward to continuing the story’

Beth’s Bookcase

‘A fast-paced, fun fantasy filled with Irish folklore that captured my imagination. I love the world that John Lenahan has created, and the contemporary spin he placed on it. I raced through in record time and no part fell flat’

Kerri McBookNerd

‘If you love a great fantasy, with folklore, magic and characters that feel real, pick up this book soon’

Beyond the Books



John Lenahan

Born in Philadelphia but long settled in the UK, John Lenahan is an acclaimed magician and TV performer. He fronted his own BBC2 magic series Stuff the White Rabbit, played the voice of the toaster in Red Dwarf and has appeared on a wide range of entertainment shows including TFI Friday, Comedy Café and Celebrity Squares. He is a member of the exclusive Magic Circle.

He is also the author of the popular Shadowmagic trilogy, a fantasy adventure series for young adults which combines Irish folk myth with 21st-century wit. Son of Shadow takes up the story once more, following the noble houses of the magical parallel world of Tir na Nog into the next generation.

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