ARC Review: In the Shadows-Kiersten White & Jim Di Bartolo


4/5 Stars


Release Date: April 29, 2014

***I received this eARC as a gift in exchange for an honest review via NetGalley and Scholastic. 

The words charged through her like lightning, a physical sensation she felt to her fingertips. She stood on her tiptoes and pulled his face down, meeting his lips with her own in a kiss so longed and hoped for it was more an act of desperation than passion.

One of Kiersten White’s many talents is her wonderful ability to find the perfect words and combine them into sentences of such flawless simplicity that it’s almost magical. In the Shadows combines Kiersten’s uncanny ability of straightforward, precise writing with Jim Di Bartolo’s dark and gritty artwork. Reminiscent of Philip Pullman’s Sally Lockheart series, In the Shadows is a time machine into the past, incorporating a brilliant Gothic atmosphere, a Penny Dreadful-esque tale of woe and mystery, and illustrations that transition from the past to present. If you’re looking for something unique, a sublime twist on a graphic novel with intersections of haunting artwork, In the Shadows will immerse you in the old world and chill you to the bone. 

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Sister’s Cora and Minnie live in a seaside town, daughters to the local boarding house owner, Cora and Minnie are constantly looking for adventure and in a town like theirs, quiet and small, it’s hard to come by. Cora and Minnie live through stories, tales of a witch, of haunted caves, and a ghostly church. Starved for fun, the girls are prone to dares and rash behavior. One day, while racing around the witch’s house, Cora is determined to beat her sister. Going where no one has gone before, Cora climbs the witch’s house, never expecting to be met with the woman herself. A horrible incident later, Cora is a changed girl, no longer the carefree, rambunctious dreamer she use to be.When a random supposed relative lands on their doorstep without explanation, Minnie is immediately obsessed with unveiling the truth. Who is Arthur, how are they related, and does his heart beat as quickly as hers does when she looks at him?

Arthur arrives at an address unsure of his purpose with a suitcase full of documents that tore his family to pieces. Shaken, lost, and alone, a green beetle colors his nightmares and his waking hours.

Minnie yearns for the sister she use to know and love but can’t seem to find a way to bring her out of her shell. So, when two new lodgers, boys close to their own age come to stay, Minnie sees this as the perfect opportunity to get Cora to loosen up. 

Charles and Thomas were shipped off by their father to this sleepy seaside town under the pretense of Charles’ health but Thomas knows better. Having overheard a strange conversation between his father and a woman in the dead of night, Thomas is certain their lives are in danger and their father is hiding something from them. 

When the woman who Thomas heard with his father confronts him on the street, Thomas knows that they’re in grave peril. Who are these people, how powerful are they, and what business do they have with Minnie, Cora, and Arthur?

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.

-via Goodreads


  • Pay attention. Every clue matters, even the smallest. The story is meticulously plotted, each element links with another forming a chain of tidbits that combine to make a shocking and horrific revelation.
  • The story is eerie. The hints of wickedness, the sinister uncertainty of characters, their intentions, and the general atmosphere is enough to put anyone on edge. The secrets and the unknown cross the line between a twisted reality and an even more grotesque supernatural. The fact that you can never be certain puts the reader in a precarious situation, increasing the suspense and the thrill of each new bit of information. Like the characters, the reader won’t know what to believe.
  • The artwork is to die for. It’s creepy, full of cold colors, shadows, and malicious faces. It’s off, like a nightmarish dreamscape in a fiery Hell. The notes are puzzling, adding to the overall mystique of the pictorial storyline. There are some seriously, hideously horrific and beastly images.
  • There are three story lines that intersect and merge into one. Cora and Millie’s story, Thomas and Charles’, and Arthur’s. Each is linked with something so evil and ancient that binds them together in their plight to triumph over their adversaries. The sheer intersectionality of the subplots with the master story is genius. The way they seamlessly merge into one is incredible. You’ll never see the climax coming. When all the cards are played out, the truth is so unexpected and nefarious that it will leave you dazed, struggling to recover. When I finished this book, I had to mull over it for a few days just to process what happened.
  • Arthur’s story is by far the most intriguing. Arthur is that character that you’re not sure if you can trust. He seeps into the shadows, purposely places himself on the sidelines, ever watching, ever listening. Conflicted about his past, guarding terrible secrets, and heart darkened by images that can’t be unseen, Arthur is a complex character. Beneath this hazy outer visage is a heart filled with deep protectiveness for Minnie and Cora, and striking resolve to combat the forces that destroyed his family and threatened these pure souls.
  • The cult-like, malevolent presence of the antagonists is extremely scary. Their ability to randomly appear, to pervert and mar, threatening the main characters and killing on whim, takes away all measure of safety. The hopelessness couples with genuine fear to make a truly frightening enemy.
  • Minnie is a golden burst of sunshine, she’s bold and loveable. She’s flirty and teasing in a charming and endearing way that is sure to win over some hearts. Her fierce heart allows her to make risks and fight without wavering. She’s a firestarter and survivor.
  • Charles’ story is incredibly sad but beautifully done in a soulful, heartwarming way akin to Louisa May Alcott’s style in Little Women. He’s so full of light and laughter, and that quiet resolve to live his life to the fullest and to not be taken down by his circumstances. He’s hardy in his soul.


  • At first, the pictures are really confusing, they don’t seem to make sense or have anything to do with the story at all. Be patient. It will make sense at the end.
  • The alternating perspectives and character voices can be a little overwhelming and easy to mix up so that the story feels a bit scattered at times but the pieces are woven closer together as the story progresses. Think of them like pieces in the same puzzle that when complete make a clearer picture.
  • Some sections are slow. If you’re not used to Gothic this might frustrate you.

If you like any of the following, you’ll enjoy this:

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Pleasant reading, 

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