Review: In the Shadows by Kiersten White and Jim Di Bartolo

Genre: historical fiction, paranormal Age Level: young adult Series: N/A
Genre: historical fiction, paranormal
Age Level: young adult
Series: N/A

From the remarkable imagination of acclaimed artist Jim Di Bartolo and the exquisite pen of bestselling author Kiersten White comes a spellbinding story of love, mystery, and dark conspiracy, told in an alternating narrative of words and pictures. 

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.


I pretty much ordered In the Shadows the moment I saw it on Goodreads. The summary alone checked most of the boxes on my mental list of things I look for in a book, and I have to say, In the Shadows lived up to my expectations. It was gripping and mysterious and is something I look forward to reading again one day.

I was a little worried that it would be too similar to either Brian Selznick’s The Invention of Hugo Cabret in which half the story is told in pictures and the other half in words, or Wonderstruck in which one character’s story is told in words and the second is told through pictures. Thankfully, In the Shadows was original. The graphic novel part begins the moment the text story ends and extends from the 1890s to the present day. This added a timelessness to the story and reflected the way the future often mirrors the past.

The writing was lovely and I adored the alternating POV’s. The character’s lives are magical yet tangible and it is impossible not to care for them. The graphic novel and the written story work together to create a complete tale – one could not read one half of the story alone. I was able to guess who the mystery man in the graphic novel portion is but it does get revealed at the end.

The plot sucks you in and refuses to let you go until the final pages. There are so many unknown variables and hidden secrets as you are thrown headlong into the story without any background knowledge. Slowly, you uncover little pieces and can start to see the bigger picture. However, you don’t get the full picture until the very end. This mainly applies to the paranormal part, but there are even things about the characters lives that are kept hidden. The book title is extremely fitting.

On the characters side, the characterization is well done, but nothing special. The characters must learn to overcome loss and deal with the trials of love. I liked watching their relationships grow and following the paths of their lives.

The ending was perhaps a little too satisfying, but I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. Plus the final scene is one of humour, which is a great way to end a book. Now that I think about it, I wonder why more books don’t end this way. So yeah, the ending made me smile twice, once because it was sweet and twice because it was funny.

Highly recommended!

Have you read this book? What did you think? I’d love to hear from you!


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