Review: The Shadow Keeper is a cracker. Abi Elphinstone’s second book transported me back in time – way back in time – to my youth. Not to a specific moment or place as such, but to a feeling, a sense of what it was like to be young. Remember – before the more worrisome effects of adolescence or adulthood arrived on the scene, there was a time when everything was an adventure.
A bike ride wasn’t just a bike ride; how could it be when blood-sucking martians, visible only to me and my mates, were flitting between the trees? A kitchen table to you was a secret den to me. A stroll on the beach was no such thing, not when you’re foraging for food, surviving alone after being washed up, shipwrecked on the sand (surviving, it must be said, within sight of Mum, not past the pier, and with a bellyful of sand-encrusted cheese rolls).
This is what’s great about The Shadow Keeper, it creates or, more accurately, re-creates that unique sense of adventure and derring-do that is only really experienced in childhood.
In the telling of the tale – Moll, part of a gypsy clan who crack codes and battle smugglers to find an amulet with the power to defeat the evil Shadowmasks – Abi Elphinstone summons up the spirit of the Famous Five and turns out a rollicking yarn, full of wonderful pantomime-esque villains, clever and well-observed description and, in Moll, a lead character full of life and vigour and the kind of flaws that make you want to hold her close.
While there’s more than an echo of Enid Blyton in the book, the Shadow Keeper drew out another vague, distant, imprecise memory. It reminded me of a time, way back in time, when I read a very special series of books with the same sense of magic, adventure and other-worldliness. This was the Narnia books by CS Lewis. I can offer no higher praise.