The Shadows is the first book in a series, The Books of Elsewhere by Jacqueline West. Ms. McMartin, an elderly woman, has died and her house is now vacant. Alec and Alice Dunwoody, a couple of mathematicians, soon own the home. They and their daughter, Olive, find themselves in what seems to be a new world. Since the new school year does not start for quite some time, 11 year old Olive takes to exploring the home. She finds all sorts of relics from Ms Martin's existence. The paintings on the wall intrigue her the most and she takes a long time studying them. She finds spectacles that give her the ability to travel into these paintings, Elsewhere as it is known. She finds all sorts of people, trapped in their little worlds, talking to them and finding herself in some sort of dark plot, worrisome and even dangerous.
I thought that this book was completely lovely. I admire Olive's curiosity most of all; she's a lovely little girl with notions of kindness and bravery. I think that Olive is very intelligent for her age, just not in the respect that her parents wish for her. She has an unusual and unique understanding of the world about her, and a particularly smart way of planning her adventures into the paintings. Even when things go wrong, she tries to problem solve with the help of her parents' advice and does her best to make everything right. I found the relationship between the parents completely sweet. I enjoyed the jokes and the little moments that they shared together. Though, I think their parental ability was a little lacking at times, letting Olive stay in the house alone for the whole night. However, I appreciate that they did care about her a lot, but I found myself concerned about their lack of attention. My favourite characters of all were the three cats. I thought that the author did well to keep a little bit of mystery about them, even through to the end. I liked Harvey the best, though Leopold and Horatio are both quite fantastic as well!
The back-story of the home and paintings was thoroughly interesting. It was a quite unique plot with all sorts of twists and turns which made it even more interesting. There are all sorts of intriguing portions to the plot. I liked, in particular, the explorations of the paintings. Each one was a look into the life of the inhabitants. Each of the people within them had some sort of unique personality or story. I liked how Olive had to travel through many images to find clues and tips to aid her in the plot.
I will definitely be reading the next volumes of the series; it's very good so far!