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Hardly more subtantial than a shadow

I had looked forward to reading Ron Hansen's The Shadowmaker as I've enjoyed two of his novels. This short book was different though, it was written for children. It concerns a short man who arrives in town "where nearly everyone was happy." He soon finds a way to sell something to a people who "have everything" and are completely happy. Hmmm...seems interesting doesn't it. Shades of the Faustian bargain, Needful Things or Melville's Confidence Man. And it is good--until about halfway through. Two orphans take over the business of the shadowmaker, who has convinced the townspeople to buy new shadows for themselves. There isn't much menace to the children, there isn't a comeuppance for the gullible townsfolk, and the Shadowmaker essentially franchises out his shadow business to the brother and sister into a repair shop for shadows. I wonder if Hansen thought the book was taking too dark a turn and decided to open the curtains. Whatever the reason, the School Library Journal lied when it pasted a blurb on the back of my edition that reads: "Has the sassy feel of a modern fairy tale." That would be true perhaps, if the last half of the book had been destroyed. A dissapointing read, but milder children might receive a half-hearted thrill from this short story.


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