The Shadow Keeper, by Abi Elphinstone, is the sequel to The Dreamsnatcher, which was one of my top 3 books of last year. So let’s get that out of the way – is it as good as The Dreamsnatcher?
It’s even better. Everything I loved about The Dreamsnatcher is present in The Shadow Keeper, but more so. More fun. More excitement. More monsters, more magic, more wildness and catapults. So if you liked The Dreamsnatcher, you’ll love The Shadow Keeper.
As the books begins, Moll and friends are in hiding in a secret sea cave from the evil Shadowmasks. Where The Dreamsnatcher was set in wild forests, this story is set mostly by the sea – and if you know anything about me, you’ll know that this is exactly what I’d have asked for from Moll’s further adventures.
But these aren’t just Moll’s adventures. Where The Dreamsnatcher was mostly about Moll and Gryff the wildcat, with support from Sid and Alfie, this time both of the boys are full members of the team – they call themselves The Tribe. The cover (by the brilliant Thomas Flintham) shows Moll racing off into danger, leading Gryff, Sid and Alfie, and this is the perfect encapsulation of the friendship – Moll is the leader, but the others are close behind.
That isn’t to say the friendship goes perfectly smoothly, because Alfie has secrets of this own – dark secrets – that put a strain on their friendship, but in the end the bonds are unshakeable.
Their quest for the second Amulet of Truth, the only thing that can drive back the dark magic of the Shadowmasks, takes them to the smuggling town of Inchgrundle, lair of the monstrous smuggler Barbarous Grudge.
Let’s stop here to take a moment and enjoy just how wonderful that name is, shall we? In fact, the names are brilliant throughout – Barbarous Grudge, Smog Sprockett, Puddle, Scrap – all utterly fantastic and evocatively Dickensian.
Their quest takes them further, to the Nibbled Head Lighthouse (Abi, you’re just pandering to me now) and to the deadly Devil’s Drop, where ghosts and sea monsters await.
There’s many a shocking moment along the way, with real emotional engagement for the plucky Tribe, and an ending that makes me extremely cross that I’ve got to wait a year for the final instalment in the trilogy.
This is the middle book, so we’ve got to have our Empire Strikes Back ending, with this part of the story concluding, but questions remaining unanswered; a dark conclusion with a glimmer of hope, and a sense of determination.
Roll on 2017.