Picture drawn by Maggie Stiefvater, 2009. Header made by S.F. Robertson, 2010.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Shadow Walkers by Brent Hartinger

Shadow Walkers by Brent Hartinger
"Zach lives with his grandparents on a remote island in Puget Sound in Washington State. With only his little brother, Gilbert, to keep him company, Zach feels cut off from the world. But when Gilbert is kidnapped, Zach tries the only thing he can think of to find him: astral projection. Soon, his spirit is soaring through the strange and boundless astral realm—a shadow place. While searching for his brother, Zach meets a boy named Emory, another astral traveler who's intriguing (and cute).

As Zach and Emory track the kidnappers from the astral realm, their bond grows—but each moment could be Gilbert's last. Even worse, there's a menacing, centuries-old creature in their midst that devours souls and possesses physical bodies. And it's hungry for Zach."-summary from Amazon

I've been looking forward to a new Brent Hartinger book since 2009's Project Sweet Life (pretty much exactly two years since that book; both released in Feb), and even more so when I found out this would feature a gay protagonist. I'll be honest though; this was a bit of a let-down. That's not to say it was a bad book because it wasn't, but it just wasn't an amazing book like I know Hartinger can write (like his Geography Club series).

I think I'll start with the bad stuff and end on the good. When I read the summary right before reading the book and then looked at the page count, I thought to myself "This is a lot of story for so few pages." and I was right. Everything felt like it didn't get enough time to really develop because the book kept focusing on different things. Even though the two plot points come together at the end, I thought the soul-eating creature was really unnecessary and didn't seem to add much to the storyline that couldn't have been handled in a different way.

Characterization suffered too even though there's a small cast of characters. The most developed is Zach, being the main character, and the second-most is Emory, the boy he meets in the astral plane. But even Emory's characterization isn't that good; I never really got a good grip on his character. I also wanted their romance to be more developed too. I mean, I know they're just starting out and all that, but I felt like I didn't get enough of a sense of why they were attracted to each other. I did think that what was shown was cute and I adored the ending, but I wanted more. Does that make sense?

Also, a small side note- I got a final copy of this so it's the copy that's going into stores rather than an ARC. I spotted quite a few repeated and misplaced words and that bothered me a bit. I know it can't be perfect, but it happened way more than usual.

OK, on to the good stuff. I know after all that bad stuff, it seems like there shouldn't be any good stuff but trust me, there is. I really did enjoy the book even though I had issues with those things. But those issues didn't really crop up until after I thought about the book (except for the typos), so they didn't affect my actual reading. Like I said above, the romance is cute, if underdeveloped. I really liked the astral projection idea and how Hartinger executed the world; it's not often you read about that sort of thing. The ending was really interesting too and had a twist I wasn't expecting.

I also enjoyed his use of the small town and Zach's desire to escape it. I understand how Zach feels even though I didn't live on an island as a teenager. I still felt isolated and unsure of myself. I think a lot of teenagers, not just GLBT ones, would identify with this character.

Overall, it's a good book but it has its flaws. If I were to do a star rating, I'd say 3.5 out of 5. I do think the good things outweigh the bad though, so it is worth a shot if you're in the market for a paranormal GLBT book.

FTC: Received paperback from publisher. Link above is an Amazon Associate link; any profit goes toward funding contests.


  1. These are EXACTLY my thoughts, James! I've heard so many great things about Hartinger's GEOGRAPHY CLUB, so my expectations for SHADOW WALKERS was highr than usual. And I was SOOOOO disappointed. It wasn't necessarily a bad book, just disappointing.

  2. I have been looking forward to reading this, but I keep hearing that it's a bit of a let down. I'm sorry you didn't love it, but at least it was enjoyable enough. :-) Thanks for the review!

  3. That's kind of disappointing - I've really been looking forward to this one! (Whatever. I'm going to read it anyway. ^_^)