The Forest King: Woodlark’s Shadow

fantasy and science fiction book reviewsWoodlark's Shadow by Tom MishkinThe Forest King: Woodlark’s Shadow by Dan Mishkin (author) & Tom Mandrake (illustrator)

Justin’s family has moved to the town where his dad grew up, and they now live in a house on the edge of an ancient forest. Justin knows something evil is lurking in the forest but faces ridicule from his friends and disbelief from the adults. When his friends get hurt by a strange creature playing in the forest, Justin knows that he has to act to save everyone he cares about from danger.

Woodlark’s Shadow (2006), by comic book author Dan Mishkin and illustrator Tom Mandrake, is the initial book release by Actionopolis, a press that specializes in comic books. Aimed at the reluctant tween male reader, the idea of expanding the action-oriented stories in which the press specializes to books is a good idea in concept, but I can’t say that this book was a success. The heavily inked illustrations do a good job of evoking the foreboding forest, but the text relies too heavily on the illustrations to convey information and tone. The prose is straightforward and lacks emotional impact. The story ends on a definite cliffhanger, something that is not unheard of in fantasy series, of course, but would be familiar to readers of a serialized comic book series as well. In fact, when I got to the end of the book, I flipped the page assuming that the story would continue, for it just didn’t feel like it had covered enough content to be an actual complete book.

It may have just been because I was reading this book at the same time that I was reading THE SPIDERWICK CHRONICLES by Holly Black and Tony DeTerlizzi, but I was struck by the similarities between the volumes. Both are the same size, are the work of an author and illustrator, have a detailed map of the surroundings, and follow the adventures of a young boy who has moved to a new home where something odd is happening. Both are action-oriented tales, and are about the same length. When compared for quality though, THE SPIDERWICK CHRONICLES is the overwhelming winner. Woodlark’s Shadow is supposed to be the first book in THE FOREST KING series, but I will not be seeking out any additional entries.

Published in 2006. In the forest surrounding Justin’s home, something is lurking. It’s only a shadow at first, speaking to him through the rustling leaves. But Justin knows that a terrible creature is living in the woods — and that no one will believe him. Haunted by a nightmare that is all too real, he must speak up and be ridiculed, or face this ancient evil on his own.

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RUTH ARNELL (on FanLit's staff January 2009 — August 2013) earned a Ph.D. in political science and is a college professor in Idaho. From a young age she has maxed out her library card the way some people do credit cards. Ruth started reading fantasy with A Wrinkle in Time and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe — books that still occupy an honored spot on her bookshelf today. Ruth and her husband have a young son, but their house is actually presided over by a flame-point Siamese who answers, sometimes, to the name of Griffon.

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