Title: The Watcher in the Woods
Author: Robert Liparulo
Review: Watcher in the Woods picks up the eerie, engrossing story begun in House of Dark Shadows, which saw the King family move from Pasadena to the small town of Pinedale when their father Edward accepts the position of principal at the high school, and into a house with a dark history. From the first page of this Christian-published young adult novel we are plunged once again into the high intensity, rapid fire setting of the first. Liparulo cuts to the chase, providing a bare minimum of exposition in the first chapters to remind readers of where the story left us at the end of book one.
This series is one that builds upon itself, adding question upon question, layer upon layer of mystery and uncertainly to the storyline, while revealing few answers. These titles do not stand-alone; each is an integral part of the story. Each book needs to be read in sequence in order to follow along.
David and Xander, the King brothers, throw themselves fool-hardily into the search for their missing mother. Frustrated by their father’s lack of action they take matters into their own hands despite their father’s cautious prohibitions and warnings. This rebellion against their father marks the initiating of the downward spiral of the King family into the darkness that becomes more palpable throughout this title.
The King family struggles to maintain a somewhat normal façade (with little success) when dealing with the townsfolk of Pinedale. Edward King starts his new job and the King siblings enter the school year in unfamiliar surroundings. Together the family embarks on a plan of deception, and outright lies to mask the disappearance of their mother. I was so dismayed to see this plan being carried out with little concern for the word of God. This is only book two of the series, but as the characters involved are professing Christians I hope to see God dealing with this blatant sin in their lives before the series comes to an end.
Watcher in the Woods is not as cohesive a tale as the first book. Liparulo includes a lengthy scene which appears unconnected from any other events in the series to date. This odd scene seems only to serve as a respite from the relentless action. I am surmising that he will further explain the meaning of this incident in future books and is only starting to weave this thread through the story.
New characters, mysteries and challenges arise but few are solved. The King family learns some rudimentary operations of the portals in their new home, but so much remains to be discovered. I feel that we are barely at the beginning of learning how and why the house and portals work, but this installment hints at a fuller explanation in the near future.
While the ending of the first novel left us hanging with the disappearance of the King’s mother, it pales in comparison with the monstrous cliffhanger Liparulo works up to this time. Anyone who has taken a creative writing course can tell you that the climax ought to occur approximately 80 – 90% of the way through a story, leaving the author time to wrap up loose ends and come to a conclusion. You can’t expect that sort of formulaic tale telling with this series.
A frenzy of action builds up to the climax, and Liparulo leaves us there with no conclusion. Three dramatic, time-sensitive events occur simultaneously at the end of the novel, bringing stress levels to a crescendo before cuting us off abruptly with the words “NOT THE END”. Whew, what a ride.
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