Title:The Shadows (The Books Of Elsewhere #1)Author: Jacqueline WestGenre: Middlegrade FantasyPages: 224Publication Date: June 9, 2010
Old Ms. McMartin is definitely dead. Now her crumbling Victorian mansion lies vacant. When eleven-year-old Olive and her dippy mathematician parents move in, she knows there's something odd about the place--not least the walls covered in strange antique paintings. But when Olive finds a pair of old spectacles in a dusty drawer, she discovers the most peculiar thing yet: She can travel inside these paintings to a world that's strangely quiet . . . and eerily like her own. Yet Elsewhere harbors dark secrets--and Morton, an undersized boy with an outsize temper. As she and Morton form an uneasy alliance, Olive finds herself ensnared in a plan darker and more dangerous than she could have imagined, confronting a power that wants to be rid of her by any means necessary. It's up to Olive to save the house from the dark shadows, before the lights go out for good.
Now this is a cute one. It's plenty full of mystery with just enough spooky to make you keep the pages turning. Ms. West's peculiar world of living paintings, bewitched spectacles, talking cats, and magical shenanigans is bound to scoop up your imagination for an adventure you'll never forget.
Olive and her family move into a spooky old house and within days things start to get weird. The paintings that were left in the house won't come down off the wall. What's even more odd is that they MOVE. When Olive locates a pair of antique glasses during a game of dress-up and unwittingly makes herself a target for the spirits of angry witches her world is turned upside down, inside out, and six ways to Sunday.
I admit that there were some parts that were a bit slow, and it's not easy to like Morton, the pint-sized secondary character with a big attitude. I found it only a little unlikely that a 12 year old like Olive would put up with such an unpleasant younger boy for so long, but that speaks volumes about the type of character Olive is. It seems that she almost immediately adopts the painted little beast as a younger brother. Or at the very least a second cousin.
Olive's parents are quirky but loveable mathematicians, and her neighbors are quite odd themselves with overgrown gardens, or pale sleeky skin. Olive's three new feline companions are also a hoot with three VERY different personalities. I found myself adoring the soldier-like Leo, laughing out loud over the theatrical Harvey, and attempting to find affection for the dry and serious Horatio... I eventually did.
There are a few intense scenes throughout this first book which include the TALK of murder and actual attempted murder. Might be a bit scary for wee-ones but it's nothing too graphic or terrible and everyone turns out okay in the end.
Though I'm only giving this book a 3/5 for its bit of slowness at getting me drawn in I can very confidently say that the rest of this series is far better (WONDERFUL even). Stay tuned for reviews on books 2-5!
Until Next Blog,