Rating: ★★★★ 1/2
Synopsis: From the remarkable imagination of acclaimed artist Jim Di Bartolo and the exquisite pen of bestselling author Kiersten White comes a spellbinding story of love, mystery, and dark conspiracy, told in an alternating narrative of words and pictures.
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.
Huge thank you to Scholastic and Netgalley for this ARC.
Sam’s Review (4.5 Stars)
I feel like I am one of the only people out there who has never experienced a book by Kiersten White. I’ve been told many awesome things, and it’s always been a case of just not having the time to get to every single author I’d love to read something by. When I saw this was up on Netgalley, I had to grab it based on the premise alone. The blurb really doesn’t do the dual-narrative justice at all!
Before I go into the writing I want to stress what a visual experience this book is. Jim Di Bartolo’s artwork is both beautiful and even horrifying at times, and paired with White’s writing, you have two different tales running simultaneously throughout with two stories to keep track of, though both are quite connected and when you get to the end, a lot of parts really come together.
In the Shadows is an eerie and uncomfortable read. A lot of the time the characters read out of a horror film in terms of their mannerisms and behaviour. I can’t say I always liked Minnie, Cora, Thom and Arthur, but having their stories woven together by a supernatural feeling that just can’t be shaken off is pretty damn scary. There’s a lot of horrific descriptions when it comes to people dying, and because this book has such an old world feeling to it, it makes it harder for the creepy feelings to be shoved away.
This is definitely a book I want a physical copy of, just so I can with ease, go back and forth between pages. I found myself constantly flipping back and forth just to check what I had read because this narrative is a bit overwhelming and easy to get lost in.
I don’t want to spoil a lot of this book because I feel it’s one that will benefit from multiple readings. It’s not a book where all the answers are in your face, but rather they must be pieced together and each piece does not always feel like it has a set place. That being said, I feel like it’s a book that gives you more each time your read it, and the illustrations are just so breathtaking that you might find yourself looking for all the smaller details within. This book is definitely worth checking out when it releases, especially for those who love a great mystery with a supernatural flavour included.
River’s Review (4.5 Stars)
This is one of those books that can’t really be described, it must be experienced. And I HIGHLY recommend reading this in physical format. I’m going to buy this so I can flip through the illustrations more easily. There were SO many times when I wanted to go back, but between my iPad lagging (because the images are so big) and just hating having to flip back and forth on a digital device, I didn’t do it very much.
Also, this is NOT a ‘story with illustrations’. This is TWO stories told side by side: one in words, one in illustrations. They do weave together and at the end it all makes sense, but you WILL feel some frustration up until the middle. I was trying too hard to connect the pictures to the words and I should have just let it go. I think having been able to flip back to the illustrations more easily would have alleviated this problem though. But don’t think that this is just a story with some pictures, think of it as two different things.
I am a HUGE fan of White’s work (I’ve read everything she has out, and loved it all!) so I was really pleased to see her signature solid writing in this. But this IS a bit different from her other work because it’s historical (I guess? I’m not sure when it’s set… but it’s def. not contemporary). There are a lot of paranormal elements, but you never fully know what kind until the end. There are hints of magic, hints of evil… but you’re left to guess what exactly is happening until the pieces click click clickkkkkk together.
I love the characters and the sibling relationships. I loved Arthur and his outsider/loner status. I liked the way things clicked along. I do think that because this is a bit short (half of it IS illustrations, so the actual written story is probably only 200 some pages) some of the depth that I usually enjoy with White’s writing was lacking. A few of the romantic scenes were a bit rushed and seemed to not fully come out of nowhere, but they were kinda like ‘whoa’ too.
This was my first experience with Di Bartolo’s art and HOLY HOLY COW (insert other expletive here, I’m trying not to swear so much in my reviews) was it ever amazing. These illustrations were not just ‘pictures’. They weren’t just ‘drawings’. They were not ‘something to supplement the written portion of the story’. They were full blown PIECES OF ART. The art in this book is sexy and creepy and brilliant. They tell another story, a story that connects to the written story, and in the end merges together. I found myself drooling over the artwork and I want to see them in their full, glossy-printed glory when this comes out.
So pick this up, devour it, drool over it and enjoy it! It’s one-of-a-kind.