Review: The Creeping Shadow
I suppose I should be embarrassed for the squees involved in a series meant for middle grade readers. Certainly I am an Elitist, but that doesn’t mean I won’t give recognition where it is due. And Johnathan Stroud is due recognition for a smart, well-written, engaging horror series known as Lockwood & Co.
In THE HOLLOW BOY Lucy’s ability to talk to ghosts changes everything, and she learns that if she stays with the company her presence may be the result of Lockwood’s death. So, out of loyalty and love for her friend and co-worker, she leaves to become a freelancer. In the opening of THE CREEPING SHADOW we see how Lucy is handling her new life–and learning the hard way how much more competent Lockwood and Co. is than other ghost hunting groups. Sure she misses her old team, but is determined to never go back.
She sticks to her plan until the day Lockwood shows up at her little apartment to hire her for a job that the famed Penelope Fittes wants them to do–and it requires Lucy’s special listening skills. How can she say no?
As in previous novels Lucy continues to be our first-person narrator with her witty observations of the characters in the story. Here’s an example of a description that made me laugh: “He had the gaunt waif thing going on, that was the main reason for our sympathy: pale skin, unhealthily big eyes, and a pair of ears that would have carried him some distance in a strong wind. His light brown hair was untidily cropped. His Irish sweater looked several sizes too big for him; his head and neck protruded from it like a stork chick peering from a nest. It was all very disarming. Take it from me, if you had to choose between him and a basketful of supercute puppies to toss out of a sinking hot-air balloon, it would have been the pups sent spiraling down to earth” (pg 193).
Of course, Lucy isn’t infallible, and often her first judgements of people are proven wrong. The most important one being Holly Munro, the most recent hire at Lockwood, and in THE HOLLOW BOY Lucy is instantly jealous of the girl’s domestic abilities and lovely appearance. The friction in their relationship caused big problems with the poltergeist in book three, but here in THE CREEPING SHADOW, after her time spent away, Lucy begins to recognize Holly’s strength and appreciate her for who she is–and vice versa–so it was nice to see Lucy’s changes as she matures as a result of her experiences.
Then again, not everything she does is wise. Such as crashing the dark market with Lockwood and then becoming the target of not very nice people. So, of course, they take a job out of town until everything blows over.
As in previous books, at first the events don’t seem connected as our heroes are going about do their job banishing the visitors. But Lockwood makes connections (you can, too, if you’re paying close enough attention–even more so if you’ve read previous books), and we realize that the story is bigger than we first suspected. Stroud’s pacing is excellent (as usual) and the events grow more thrilling and dangerous as the novel continues–these are some brave kids, it amazes me what they’re capable of. But then I’ve been reading about them since book one, so I shouldn’t be too surprised?
If you aren't reading Lockwood & Co then shame on you. It may be only be middle grade horror, but it's worth every minute of your time.
Stroud also does an excellent job with the setting, how the ghosts behave and their limitations and behaviors, what life is like in this world of ghosts, and the little subcultures that exist because of them.
Some questions from the beginning of the series about what’s going on are on the verge of being answered. We learn more with each book, but at the same time there are new, deeper questions about why the visitors are here and if they will ever be able to fix the problem. But if anyone can answer this question, it will be Lockwood and Co. I can’t wait for book five, THE EMPTY GRAVE (oooh, I think I know whose it is!! squee).
- Recommended Age: 10+ (although may be too intense for more tender-hearted children)
- Language: None
- Violence: Some fighting against ghosts and murderous adults; death and loss is a frequent theme
- Sex: None