If this book could be rewritten to about half the length, removing all of the superfluous imagery and metaphors, I would probably give it 5 stars As a story, I found it thoroughly enjoyable The plot was immensely intriguing, and despite the tiresome writing style I found myself constantly entertained by the twists and turns of this epic I took a very long time to finish this book, and not just because the book itself is long As I have already mentioned, the writing style was very difficult to get through, and I found myself often needing a break Pages and pages are dedicated to detailed description of the events as they unfold At points it seemed like every scene was preceded by a metaphor that could be a novel in itself One thing that needs to be mentioned about this novel is the very overt stance on religion I didn t find the novel too preachy , but then again I didn t think The Chronicles of Narnia were either, and those books have turned a few people off The final message of the book seems to be that it doesn t really matter if you believe in a magic bear or a man in the sky, what matters is that as a community you take that belief and use it to help people rather than hurt them A nice message, if a little naive All in all, if you are up for a challenging read, Shardik is an excellent choice for just about anyone A great epic tale for fiction lovers, and lots of interesting parallels to reality for anyone else. I went into this book knowing very little about it, other than the reference to Shardik the Bear in one of Stephen King s books in the Dark Tower series I did have some prior experience with Richard Adams, having read enjoyed been impressed with Watership Down and The Plague Dogs In fact, while reading Plague Dogs, I noticed that Adams manages to keep me reading right on through something I cannot stand in most books lengthy description of setting, particularly landscapes So much of The Plague Dogs is the setting, and not only did I read all that stuff about the Lake District, it actually made me want to find out about the area, and even, possibly, to visit there one day.Anyway, Shardik I didn t expect Shardik to be the exact type of fantasy novel I usually hate and refuse to finish or, not so much refuse, as just be physically unable to due to falling asleep Adams did a lot of very elaborate, almost Tolkien quality world building for Shardik, and this particular brand of detail usually turns me right off Give me a book that takes place in a world full of people and places with ridiculous sounding names Deelguy Bel ka Trazet Ta Kominion General Zelda BWAH HA HA HA HA and I will fling that book across the room before long However, I did not fling this book The world Adams has created for the book coheres very well, stupid names aside And once again, the descriptions of setting landscape which are so important to the story are so beautifully written, they held my interest as they did in The Plague Dogs.Some reviews of this book complain about its preachy tone, and I can sympathize The tone is oddly stiff, and Adams sometimes spells things out too blatantly where he really could have afforded to trust the reader I didn t feel it was anywhere near as axe grindy as The Plague Dogs which I enjoyed, if that word could be applied to such a book , and the unfolding of the story was so engaging, I felt the sometimes stilted tone took a back seat to the story I don t think anyone could call Richard Adams subtle he definitely has messages he wants to put across about large ideas But there s also no denying that his writing is powerful and moving Shardik is not a fast read It s epic and takes a bit of dedication, but it s worth it Nearly every character undergoes a change of almost cataclysmic proportions Nearly everyone is redeemed The point of the book is that redemption where does it come from Via whose actions Is it always deserved And then, of course, there s the question of the bear Is he the ursine embodiment of the Power of God Or is he just a beast that s been made subject to human superstitions and human greed I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys heavy duty fantasy, or discussions of philosophy religion Adams can dazzle you with beautiful writing one moment, and make you question the way you live your life in the next moment Good stuff either way. 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 On By Destiny To Become First Devotee And Then Prophet, Then Victorious Soldier, Then Ruler Of An Empire And Priest King Of Lord Shardik Only To Discover Ever Deeper Layers Of Meaning Implicit In His Passionate Belief In The Bear S Divinity Those front cover graphics are absolutely stunning, but beyond that, this book is a beautiful, brutal and courageous fantasy novel with so many intriguing surprises. When I read a Richard Adams book, it takes over my whole life Every event in my life mirrors what the characters are going through I stay up way too late reading so that I can see the characters through to the end of the scene His books are way too real to me. DNF 40% This was somewhere between boring and like Okay maybe Like it could have been good but it just wasn t grabbing me. Ever since I ve read Watership Down I ve been a big Richard Adams fan This book makes for pretty heavy reading, and I won t deny it took me a while to get through it The pacing could be quite slow at times, but I think it is well worth sticking through Shardik is epic fantasy, and nothing at all like what he created in Watership Down You could argue that the book isn t even about the bear, but the events that surround it One thing I first noticed about the book was how original the storyline seemed Shardik tells the story of the giant eponymous bear that the Ortelgans a tribe of the Beklan empire believe to be the divine Power of God He s discovered by a simple hunter, Kelderek later the priest king of Shardik who declares that Shardik was sent to lead the Ortelgans to greatness and reclaim the empire s seat at Bekla Unlike Adams s other books Watership Down and The Plague Dogs, the bear s perspective is only seen in the initial two chapters and for the remainder of the story he is a powerful and often antagonistic force that merely serves to set the wheels turning in the story What I loved in particular about this book was the imagery Adams is able to come up with The first few paragraphs alone in chapter one has some of the most beautiful prose I ve ever read He does a wonderful and very plausible job of building up this world There s something very ancient about Adams s world, even prehistoric I recently learned that Shardik was the work Adams was most happy with, and I think I understand why It s clear he s spent a lot of time creating his world, along with its geography and its flora and fauna For the duration of the book, I got the feeling that this world wasn t just some fantasy world, but a world that might have been our own thousands of years ago.While most of the characters are flawed and their actions evil, you don t find it hard to retain a certain sense of sympathy for their plight even as the novel progresses and the reality of Kelderek s crimes are made clearer and clearer While the tone of the book can border along the preachy, what I enjoyed most about the story was that it was never made clear if Shardik really were a divine personification of some higher power or if it was superstition and just a twist of fate Adams leaves us to decide ourselves as we like The story has strong themes of redemption, suffering and mankind s spiritual search for God in the world.I would recommend Shardik to anyone who really loves Adams s previous works, animal lovers or anyone who appreciates the details that come with epic high fantasy. One star means I didn t like it overall, not that it was terrible I loved Watership Down and The Plague Dogs I knew this one wasn t going to be a talking animal story That s fine with me Talking animals are not something I seek out in fiction anyway My biggest problem with Shardik was that I never connected with any of the characters Kelderek was especially flat He changes a lot over the course of the story, but he always felt like a magicless marionette than a person to me Add to that the long, complicated plot and sparse action and this book was a real slog.I suspect that when Richard Adams called this his masterpiece, he meant it was the book he worked hardest on There is some beautiful craftsmanship in the language and description Shardik himself was the most interesting thing in the book The question of his divinity pulled me along through the first half of the book But it was only stubbornness that made me finish. 1.5I ll be honest, the only reason I read this book was because of the reference to Shardik in Stephen King s Dark Tower series If you are a DT fan like me and plan to read this one, let me give you some advice don t bother The book is long and boringend of review. I knew the title from a Stephen King reference The Waste Lands and picked it up because of my interest in predator worship myths Shardik, a great bear revered as the power of the divine, is very much a Monster of God in the sense that David Quammen writes of in his book by that title Unlike real bears, who nosh whoever happens to get in their way, Shardik never eats someone who doesn t deserve it though I daresay he may have snacked on some innocent cattle The religion Adams creates is neither ancient a la Clan of the Cave Bear nor quite Christian, but something of both God manifests himself in the chaos of nature, replete with Old Testament style smitings.Taken on its own terms, though, the book has a lot to say in particular, about the folly of believing the desires of man to be the will of God There s a disturbing poignancy in Adams imagery of the beast god caged and drugged senseless by people who claim to be his worshippers By divine will and the pressure of an ambitious baron , the hunter Kelderek helps overthrow a government, rises to kingship, and legalizes a slave trade to pay soldiers to further the conquests When a dissident frees Shardik, Kelderek sets off to recapture him and plunges into a hell of his own making The Streels of Urtah, in particular, captured my attention.A few random things got in the way The names frequently struck me as odd, particularly the city state Ortelga, which to me sounded too much like that brand of canned pseudo Mexican food Adams of lapses into extended similes that not only detract from the story but often seem inappropriate for the world he s created The weirdest device was Adams references to real world history and myths in his made up universe I suppose he intended to bring his own myth into parallel with those of our world yes, this really happened, with a wink But most of the time I just scratched my head.Just the same, critics called Shardik better than Watership Down I read Watership over ten years ago and can t make a fair comparison But I am surprised that Shardik hasn t had the staying power of Adams first novel.