Shadows of the Dark Crystal (#1), by J. M. Lee/Illustrated by Brian Froud & Cory Godbey, (June 2016, Grosset & Dunlap), $17.95, ISBN: 9780448482897
Recommended for ages 12+
Jim Henson’s The Dark Crystal is back, in a big way. Comic and graphic novel publisher BOOM!’s Archaia imprint has had a Dark Crystal series since 2014, and now, we’re getting a series of YA novels, set in the years before the events of the original Dark Crystal movie, to appeal to new and established fans.
Set in the world of The Dark Crystal, Shadow of the Dark Crystal introduces us to Naia, a young Gelfling girl who leaves her home and travels to the Castle of the Crystal to find out what’s happened to her brother, Gurjin. He’s being sought after by the Skeksis Lords, who want to charge him with treason; Naia refuses to believe it. As she journeys to the Castle, she learns a great deal about the Skeksis and the crystal, setting things in motion for the rest of the series and leading into events taking place in The Dark Crystal.
The book cover is illustrated by Brian Froud, the conceptual designer on the original The Dark Crystal film, as well as Labyrinth, which makes my ’80s heart sing. Froud is also considered the preeminent faerie artist in the world and an authority of faerie lore. Cory Godbey’s beautiful black and white illustrations throughout the book bring the story to life.
I have a long-standing admiration for The Dark Crystal, but the book just didn’t set me on fire like I hoped it would. If you aren’t well-versed in the movie’s lore, you may find yourself lost. The narrative plodded at parts, and I never really connected to the characters. It did pick up toward the end, so I’m hopeful that the world-building and exposition taking place in Book One will lead to more interesting adventures in Book Two, especially since most readers will know where the Skeksis are heading at that point.
Fantasy fans, particularly Dark Crystal fans, will want to read this. It’s suggested as a young adult series, but I think it would appeal more to middle schoolers, so I’d encourage my 6th-8th graders to discover this; the cover and internal fantasy art will appeal more to tweens and early teens. I’d also suggest making the original DVD available, along with the BOOM! graphic novels; there is a lot of mythology to this universe and it’s a good thing to provide a well-rounded reading experience for fans. Here’s a peek at some of the artwork and interiors: