The Figure in the Shadows

The figure walked forward out of the circle of lamplight. Now it was standing before Lewis. Lewis smelled something. He smelled cold ashes. Cold, wet ashes.

The Figure In the Shadows is the second Lewis Barnavelt book by John Bellairs, written in 1975. While the first was a reread (albeit with little remembered), this one was new to me.

Lewis’ life is back to normal after defeating the Izzards. He even has a new friend,tomboy  Rose Rita Pottinger, with whom he builds Roman ship models. But Lewis still gets picked on sometimes, and wishes he wasn’t such a coward and could stand up to bullies. When Uncle Jonathan gives him his great-grandfather’s lucky coin, Lewis is disappointed that it’s not actually a magic amulet to help him. Unbeknownst to him, however, a power sleeps inside it stronger than he imagined, and only his friends will be able to save him from it.

Sometimes I wonder how these stories fare with kids today. Bellairs creates a nice juxtaposition of a boy’s ordinary life, like bullies and homework, with the gothic fear of an unknown power. But the story is a slow build to the climax, waiting for something to happen and capturing along the way the feel of a 1949 rural Michigan town; it may not have enough action for modern standards.

I didn’t find this book as creepy as the first, but in some ways I liked it better. The plot is a little more cohesive, and Rose Rita is a nice addition. The internal drawings are by a different well-known illustrator, Mercer Mayer, who also captures the quirky charm and horror of the plot.

This is also my second book for the R.I.P. IV Challenge. I’ve got The Letter, the Witch, and the Ring lined up as the third for next week.

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Published in: on October 21, 2009 at 10:52 am  Comments (2)  
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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. […] written in 1976. It takes place about half a year after the prior events, but unlike the first two this story focuses on Rose […]

  2. […] The Figure in the Shadows […]


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