Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Shadows by Jacqueline West

Spirited young Olive and her genius mathematician parents have just moved into the vacant old Victorian house on Linden Street once owned by the reclusive McMartin family.  Along with the house, Olive's family has also acquired all of the possessions left behind by the McMartins, including a library full of old books, a multitude of antique paintings, and a trio of resident talking housecats. As Olive starts exploring, it's not long before she realizes there is something off about her house.  Out of the corner of her eye she detects quick flashes of movement within the paintings.  While at first she suspects this may be her imagination, upon further inspection she finds that the people within these paintings can in fact move about.  Most peculiar of all, Olive unearths a pair of glasses tucked away inside a drawer that allows her to step inside the paintings, into a dark world, eerily similar to her own, known as elsewhere.

It is here that Olive encounters Morton, a temperamental young boy who breathlessly informs Olive that he has been trapped inside the painting by the Bad Man. The two unlikely companions pair up to take down the dark forces that lurk around every corner; however, a sinister warning from the cats, coupled with a growing sense of unease, have Olive wondering if she may be in over her head. Will Olive and her companions be able to discover the identity of the mysterious Bad Man and save her family and her house before the malevolent forces take over? 

The Shadows by Jacqueline West is a cleverly written amalgamation of mystery and fantasy in a unique Victorian setting.  Lighter moments appear throughout the story, providing a nice reprieve from the darker tone of the novel. The wonderfully detailed illustrations immerse the reader into this wondrous and slightly sinister world. Be prepared to lose yourself in Olive's perilous journey!
If you love this novel, be sure to check out the other two novels in The Books of Elsewhere series. Looking for more middle-grade fantasy with a dark twist?  Check out Coraline by Neil Gaiman and A Tale Dark & Grimm by Adam Gidwitz.

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