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. Arthur is also new to the boarding house. His fate is tied to that of Cora, Minnie, Thomas, and Charles. He knows what darkness circles them, but can’t say why, and doesn’t even know if they can be saved. Sinister forces are working in the shadows, manipulating fates and crafting conspiracies. The closer [they] get to the truth, the closer they get to harm. But the threat is much bigger than they can see.
A collaboration of words and illustrations, In the Shadows by Kiersten White and Jim Di Bartolo (Scholastic) is a haunting graphic novel. At the end of the 19th century, two brothers—Charles, who is dying, and Thom, who would give anything to stop it—are sent to a boarding house on the coast. There they meet sisters Minnie—with her gift for storytelling—and Cora, who is afraid she brought death into their house, along with their family friend Arthur, who prefers to stay in the shadows. But something is off about the other boarders and the small tourist town itself, and soon the five friends find themselves embroiled in a dark plot that is centuries in the making. Interspersed throughout, Di Bartolo’s illustrations follow a mysterious young man across the world and across time.
I haven’t read many graphic novels so reading In the Shadows was a new experience for me. It took a while for me to interpret the pictures and figure out the characters, but once I did the story really started to roll. If you’re like me in this, have a little patience and stick it out; the payoff is so worth it. Di Bartolo’s illustrations are dark and captivating, full of movement and detail. When I got to the end and had answers, I wanted to go back and view the illustrations in a new light as there were so many details I didn’t understand the first go round.
White’s storytelling paints the five friends at the boarding house with words as masterfully as Di Bartolo illustrates his panels. Each character was distinct and beautifully written.
Together, the two mediums really complemented each other and brought the story to a dazzling and poetic end. With its glossy full-colour illustrations, fabulous writing and twisted plot, this really is a stunning work, one I could easily see made into a movie. I hope these two artists work together on more projects in the future. In the Shadows is a timeless story with depth and intrigue. I highly recommend!
♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ (4/5 hearts)