Middle grade/YA novel The Shadow Lantern by Teresa Flavin, (2013, 257 pages), is a good time travel pick for Halloween month, replete with dancing skeletons, a hair-pulling ghost, and a black cat. In addition, there’s the eponymous lantern, which is sort of like a slide projector but of the magical variety. The Shadow Lantern is the third and final book in the Blackhope Enigma series. I didn’t read the first two, and as is typical when I jump into the middle of a series, I’m left feeling that I would have enjoyed it more had I read the first two books.
Summary from Goodreads:When a mysterious oil lantern and a box of painted slides appear at Blackhope Tower, Sunni and Blaise are drawn back to the place where their adventures first began. When they discover that the slides conceal secrets about artist-magician Fausto Corvo, the pair find themselves once again caught up in a deadly pursuit. An old enemy is still tracking Corvo and will stop at nothing to find him. Sunni and Blaise must fight to protect Corvo’s secrets and rid themselves of Soranzo’s evil threat once and for all.
The plot in this book was more place travel than time travel. That is, Sunni and Blaise enter some paintings that were painted a long time ago. The world that comes alive within each painting– people, clothing, buildings, ships, etc…–are consistent with the 1500’s when they were painted, but the paintings could have been set in modern times without much changing the overall plot of the story.
Anyone such as myself who has ever imagined herself transported to the world depicted in a painting may appreciate the adventure Sunni and Blaise experience. My favorite aspect of the book was how they had to navigate the world within the paintings. As if that weren’t cool enough, at one point the images from two paintings overlap (actually a painting and an image from a slide) and the friends have to move around in the crazy landscape that has been created.
“Something’s wrong.” Blaise tensed into a hunch, trying to look everywhere at once. Like some sort of slow-moving airship, a chunk of brown earth and green vegetation broke through the night sky and hung above them, motionless. Even from below, Sunni could see hills, trees, and boulders sprouting from it. Another appeared where a house had been, and another stuck out from a roof, lit by sun from somewhere else.
Unfortunately, the dialogue throughout the story felt very stilted to me, so much so that I checked to see if this was perhaps a translated book. (It’s not, although Ms. Flavin lives in the UK.) For example, teenager Blaise says, “Come on, get up quickly.” I don’t believe he would say that, because it takes too long to say. I think he would more likely say, “Quick–get up!” This may seem like splitting hairs, but it’s these sort of details that prevent me from getting wrapped up in a story. While reading, I keep such a book at arm’s length because I’m reminded it’s a book. I also found the characters a bit one-dimensional, and the plot tiresome. However, fantasy-loving readers might appreciate the unique magical aspects of The Shadow Lantern world.
For another blogger review of this book, check out Charlotte’s Library.
For more middle grade book reviews, follow the MMGM links on Shannon Messenger’s blog.