The Shadow Glass is a love letter to kitschy fantasy movies from the 80s. If you’re a lover of movies like Willow, The Never-Ending Story, Labyrinth, and especially The Dark Crystal, then you need to get your hands on this book. Its pages are populated with puppets come to life, a quest to save a dying fantasy realm, and a ton of pop culture references. While I loved the idea behind it, the actual execution of this story left me a bit unsatisfied, but it’s a book that I think is going to make a lot of my fellow nerdy 80s babies extremely happy.
If I were to describe The Shadow Glass in a word, it would be: zany. This felt wacky and madcap, but with a tinge of darkness. The story was almost manic in its wildness and pacing, to the point of near unbelievability even as a fantasy novel. But that was paired with a melancholy that bordered on depressive, and I found that a very odd dichotomy.
The author had interesting things to say about nerd culture, especially those who view themselves as “gate keepers” of the things they treasure, resenting even the very creators of the story or world they love should said creator decide to expand it. Which is completely their right, by the way. There is no wrong way to love the stories that speak to you, unless it involves tearing down that love in other fans. But the flip side was addressed, as well; very little is as powerful as a group of fans who wholeheartedly love something. Finding others who love the same thing you love, just as fervently, can feel like finding your tribe after going it alone. That joy and camaraderie were well presented in this novel.
I really wanted to love The Shadow Glass, but I couldn’t quite make that happen. The cause was two-fold. First, there were multiple points in the narrative where there was simply too much going on, and so much of it was over the top that I became desensitized to even the things that should’ve broken my heart or had me cheering. My other issue was with the characterization, or lack thereof. There was not much to be found in terms of character development, even though Jack was a much different person by the end of the book. He even paid for that transformation, but it still felt somehow disingenuous. And speaking of Jack, I never found him likable, even when he found his inner hero. I found him grating, and I thought the same about Zavanna. Most of the characters grated on me, actually, unless they had golden retriever energy like Toby and Brol.
While I didn’t love The Shadow Glass, I loved the idea and the heart behind it. It’s a story that I have no doubt will charm other fantasy fans, especially those who loved (and still love) Labyrinth and The Dark Crystal and the like. It encourages readers to never stop loving what you love, and to never stop believing in the magic of stories. I would love to see The Shadow Glass come to the screen, and to see how it would measure up to the movies it honors in its pages. I have no doubt that it would be just as loved as the stories that inspired it.
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