I received a gifted copy of the book from the publisher, Titan Books, in exchange for an honest review.
I am very much a child of the 80s, and a huge fan of Jim Henson, so when Lydia from Titan Books emailed about The Shadow Glass by Josh Winning, describing it as perfect for readers who fit both those things, I didn’t take much persuading! I was immediately sold on the concept – a film very much in the style of The Dark Crystal flops at the box office in the 80s and becomes a cult film, and decades later, the creator’s son has to come to terms with the idea that the world and characters of that film might actually exist. There’s more to it than that of course, but as a hook, it’s brilliant.
Jack Corman is failing at life. Jobless, jaded and facing the threat of eviction, he’s also reeling from the death of his father, one-time film director Bob Corman. Back in the eighties, Bob poured his heart and soul into the creation of his 1986 puppet fantasy The Shadow Glass, but the film flopped on release and Bob was never the same again.
In the wake of Bob’s death, Jack returns to his decaying childhood home, where he is confronted with the impossible — the puppet heroes from The Shadow Glass are alive, and they need his help. Tipped into a desperate quest to save the world from the more nefarious of his father’s creations, Jack teams up with an excitable fanboy and a spiky studio exec to navigate the labyrinth of his father’s legacy and ignite a Shadow Glass resurgence that could, finally, do Bob proud.
The first thing I want to say is how much The Shadow Glass felt like it was about a real film. It has excerpts from reviews, articles, transcripts of interviews and panel appearances and I got a real sense of what it was like to be a fan of the film, as well as the hope and despair cycle those fans had been through in the previous 30+ years. The book also managed to make me feel like I was in one of those Jim Henson films (or, in this case, a Bob Corman film), and I loved that. I was properly immersed in the action and I really cared about what was at stake.
As I said above, The Shadow Glass isn’t just about the puppets and fantasy world being real. It’s also about Jack coming to terms with his relationship with his father and learning how to reconnect with the person he used to be. Jack has a lot of anger and resentment towards his father and struggles to reconcile the Bob Corman he knew as a teenager and adult, with the Bob Corman that fans idolise. I really liked that there was a coming together of both sides of Bob for Jack and Toby, a fanboy who joins Jack in trying to save the world. There’s also regret, and grief, and the book is as much about dealing with the death of a parent as it is about saving the world. It was a really interesting angle to take, and it worked really well.
Character-wise, The Shadow Glass is stuffed full of interesting people (and puppets). Zavannah and Brol are brilliant, kettu from the fantasy world of Iri who are fantastic fighters, and the bad guys from that world are exceedingly violent and creepy. The human characters are also great – Toby and his friends, who love the film, and cosplay and campaign for a charity showing as a tribute to Bob, are a brilliant representation of fandom and the good it can do, and kickass Amelia just takes everything in her stride while reminding Jack about the good things about his father.
I was a bit worried before I read The Shadow Glass that it might lean a bit too much towards horror for me, but it was fine. There are some horroresque scenes – the bad guys do not hold back and there is a lot of death – but I’d put it on the same level as something like Gremlins. Lots of gore, but nothing too horrific.
So I really enjoyed The Shadow Glass. It really is perfect for anyone who grew up watching cult 80s fantasy films and I think Jim Henson would be very happy to know he was still inspiring people today.
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The Shadow Glass is out now from Titan Books