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Book Reviews, Historical Fiction, Middle Grade Readers

THE SEER OF SHADOWS by Avi

For all you fans of creepy, supernatural suspense stories–The Seer of Shadows is a great book for you!  The story is told from the point of view of Horace Carpentine, who was fourteen in 1872, when the story takes place.  He is apprenticed to the photographer, Enoch Middleditch at a time when photography was new and becoming fashionable.

Horace has been raised to believe in equality for all people and to find logical explanations for everything that happens in life.  His father’s adage “let the dead bury the dead” allows Horace to dismiss others’ fear of and fascination with ghosts and the like.  Everything changes the day Horace meets fourteen-year-old Pegg, a young black girl who hires his master to photograph her mistress, Mrs. Von Macht.

Interspersed with the technical details of how photographic plates and images were chemically created, Avi weaves a story involving the death of a young girl whose ghost has come back bent on revenge.  As Horace learns from Pegg that the Von Machts are not what they appear to be and the truth is unimaginably evil.  Horace must also contend with the racist and greedy nature of Mr. Middleditch–the realization of which causes Horace to question his commitment to the man and his business.

The story is a beautiful example of a gothic horror story without the grapic details of violence that would make it unsuitable for younger readers.  The warm-hearted hero and the Alfred Hitchcock-like suspense makes it impossible not to keep turning the pages.  There is fear, suspense, shock, anger and true evil deeds within the pages of this story.  It is well worth its chilling read–but maybe not at bedtime!

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