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Book: The Figure In The Shadows

January 29, 2008
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(this is Lewis, as drawn by Edward Gorey, who sadly did not illustrate this book)

I was very disappointed in this one. First — it was illustrated by Mercer Mayer, whom I actually love as a children’s illustrator, but whose illustrations really emphasized the ‘kid’ feeling of the book, as opposed to the ‘spooky’ feeling the Gorey illustrations cultivated. The entire book felt dumbed-down and not as scary as either of the other two I’ve reviewed. I wonder if Bellairs was suddenly instructed to write ‘another children’s book’ and since he didn’t have an adult book to modify, he was forced to start from scratch and wasn’t sure how to proceed, and so came up with something not as excellent. Or maybe I’m just projecting.

Anyway. The story is good enough, but strongly borrows (I mean STRONGLY) from The Lord of the Rings. It could even be viewed as a modern, child’s version of that tale. Lewis is given a ‘lucky coin’ from his uncle (Frodo is given the ring to him by Uncle Bilbo). He is obsessed with it and suspects it has magic powers. Finally, he does an obscure magical test, which he found in one of his uncle’s books (Gandalf suspects the ring is The One, and throws it into the fire to reveal the magic writing). From then on, Lewis feels that the magic coin is controlling some of his actions, but he can’t take off the chain which the coin is on by himself, and his friend is forced to fight him for it (see: Frodo cannot let go of the ring by himself, and becomes infuriated with Sam offers to take it). The friend wants to dispose of the ring, but finds herself tucking it away “for later.” Lewis cannot forget the ring and goes to find it. Then, bad things start to happen. Etc. And so on. Even up to Lewis being on the edge of a pit. My goodness.

So, it’s a “Ring” remake. Fine. I’m a big “Rings” fan, no problem there. But, the story was just too simple. The shadowy figure wasn’t very scary, there weren’t any people raised from the dead, no creepy clocks in the walls, no animated corpses. Just some shadowy figure who leads Lewis around against his will. And almost into a well.

Anyway. I read both of these books last night. I have one more here, “The Eyes Of The Killer Robot” which promises to be much creepier (and also features Johnny Dixon and Professor Childermass, my favorites). If I like this next book, I’ll probably read a couple more. If I don’t, I’ll probably be done with Bellairs for a little while. I’m not sure which I’m hoping for.

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