Rummanah Aasi
In an inspired collaboration, Kiersten White, an author of urban fantasies and paranormal, pairs up with artist Jim Di Bartolo to create a dark, moody, and mysterious hybrid novel. While it is certainly exciting to see authors experiment with the novel form, In the Shadows still feels unfinished and much left to be desired. Please note that this review is based on the advanced reader's copy provided by the publisher via Netgalley.

Description: Cora and Minnie are sisters living in a small, stifling town where strange and mysterious things occur. Their mother runs the local boarding house. Their father is gone. The woman up the hill may or may not be a witch.
   Thomas and Charles are brothers who’ve been exiled to the boarding house so Thomas can tame his ways and Charles can fight an illness that is killing him with increasing speed. Their family history is one of sorrow and guilt. They think they can escape from it . . . but they can’t.


Review: In the Shadows consists of two alternating narratives, one in prose and one in vividly colored, sometimes horrific wordless graphic novel panels. It isn't immediately apparent if or how the two narrative threads are related. As a reader, I kept turning the pages to see how these two narratives collide and I had many theories running through my mind as I read.
  The written narrative story is about two sisters, Cora and Minnie, who live with their mother in a boardinghouse in Maine. After spying on the town witch and getting caught, Cora blames herself for the death of her father the next day. When a mysterious stranger, Arthur, comes to board, along with two brothers from New York, Minnie involves them in the folklore of their sleepy Maine resort town, only to discover that they are in an evil place, surrounded by watchers, and in more danger than she could have ever thought possible. While the characters have distinct personalities, we only get brief sketches of their lives and I wanted to know more about them, particularly with the character of Arthur who drives the mystery and seems to know the answers but refuses to share them with any of the other characters and even the reader. Like the characters there are subtle romances that run throughout the story, however, I was never convinced of any of them since the characters were underdeveloped.
  For most of this slow moving story, you are wondering what exactly is going on. Though the illustrations are stunning and in color, I felt they were included in the narrative at the wrong time since the events in the graphic panels take readers across the globe and spans from the turn of the 20th century to the present, which is distracting because the written narrative story is only happening in one time period which is the late 1800s. As a result the graphic panels are more distracting, which is what I'm sure what the creators had no intention of doing.
  Though we finally do get some answers to the mystery we were introduced in the novel, I had many more unanswered questions such as how and why did the secret society start in the first place? Why did Arthur and his family only know of the secret society? Overall In the Shadows is an ambitious attempt at creating a hybrid novel, a combination of written and wordless illustrations to tell a story, but unfortunately it feels more like a rough draft storyboard rather than a novel.

Rating: 3 stars

Words of Caution: There is some  minor language and disturbing images. Recommended for Grades 7 and up.

If you like this book try: Balefire by Cate Tiernan, Prophecy of Sisters by Michelle Zink
5 Responses
  1. Jenny Says:

    Hmm. I'm not sure I like this format Rummanah, I can definitely see how the graphic panels would be distracting given they don't directly relate to the narrative. If they picked up the story where the narrative left off, they might make things more interesting, but it's odd that they pick up in a different time and place. Fabulous review as always though!


  2. I usually adore Kiersten White's stories and her writing styles, but I know that's not the case for most people. The format isn't something I'd be likely to enjoy, though, since it would probably stop me from getting fully invested, which would end up bothering me. And the discontinuity certainly doesn't work in its favor. Great review!


  3. Candace Says:

    I went to the authors signing for this one and got a copy but I haven't read it yet. I'm really curious, especially after hearing them talk about it.


  4. Hmm, I can see how the format of this one would be distracting. I hadn't really decided on whether I would read this one or not, but I'm now leaning more towards skipping it because I want a fully fleshed out story.


  5. Aylee Says:

    I really love the idea of a hybrid novel like this one, so it's too bad this didn't really pan out like one would hope. I'm bummed that several aspects of the story were found lacking and I think I may be mainly interesting in the illustrations now. Maybe I'll get this one out from the library. Thanks for this enlightening review, Rummanah!


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