Tuesday, April 29, 2014

The Figure in the Shadows by John Bellairs

cover of The Figure in the Shadows by John Bellairs
The John Bellairs gothic horror books are not very lengthy. I started The Figure in the Shadows yesterday and finished it today. This book is the second in the Lewis Barnavelt books, and it continues with the same characters: Lewis, Uncle Jonathan, and Mrs. Zimmermann. Rose Rita is introduced as Lewis' best friend. Now, Rose Rita is a girl after my own heart. She's a tomboy who doesn't take any sass from any boy. Lewis featured even more in this book than in The House with a Clock in Its Walls. At the beginning of The Figure in the Shadows, Lewis is crying over being bullied by the other kids. It's pretty much a repeat of the bullying about Lewis being fat and lacking athletic ability. To cheer him up, Uncle Jonathan lets the gang (him. Lewis, Mrs. Zimmermann, and Rose Rita) look through Uncle Jonathan's grandfather's trunk. Lewis finds an amulet, which he thinks is magical, but Mrs. Zimmermann tests it and says it is non-magical. Lewis thinks it is, and he finds a book Mrs. Zimmermann wrote about amulets, and he performs a test to see if it s rare, magical amulet. It turns out that the amulet is one of those rare, magical amulets that doesn't seem seem magical with normal tests. Lewis starts wearing it around his neck, and he finds that the amulet seems to be affecting him. For one thing, Lewis starts receiving weird, disappearing postcards and letters that say Venio, Latin for "I'm coming." Who is coming? Is it something evil? Lewis finds that he has some ability to stand up to local bully, Woody, punching Woody in the nose. The problem is that Lewis did not want to punch Woody, but something, the amulet, maybe, seemed to control his fist and make him punch Woody. Lewis becomes so frightened that he finally tells Rose Rita what has been going on with the amulet, and they fight when she tries to get it off of him. The problem is what to do with the amulet, and who is coming?

The Figure in the Shadows is an enjoyable book. The tension builds nicely and draws the reader into the action. The only thing that annoyed me is Lewis' extreme crybaby routine. I found myself wishing that Uncle Jonathan would tell Lewis to stop being such a wuss and stand up for himself. Rose Rita does effectively stand up for herself, and the contrast between her and wussy Lewis is striking. On to The Letter, the Witch, and the Ring. That book will feature Rose Rita, and I am looking forward to it.

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