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Review: The Shadows Touch by R. Scott VanKirk

The Shadows Touch, by R. Scott VanKirk, is the sequel to the fantasy novel, The Dryad’s KissThe opening pages of The Shadows Touch picks up right where the first novel left off.

I had the privilege of reviewing the first novel and I enjoyed it immensely so with great anticipation I opened to the first page of the sequel.  Ian Finn Mortgenstern’s, the hero in the first novel, life has not improved much since we last saw him in The Dryad’s Kiss.  His father is residing in the mental institution, Shady Oaks, and so is his best friend’s sister, Jen.  And Finn feels responsible for both of them.  In the last book, Jen lost it when she touched a magic crystal that Finn had.  Something in the crystal possessed her mind and now she believes that there is a war waging against an evil enemy and that only Finn can save the world.  Her father, Mr. Washington does not believe Jen and thinks Finn has harmed her.

The situation with Finn’s own father isn’t much better.  After saving his father’s life with his powers, Finn altered him permanently.  Now his father doesn’t crave human food, but he craves people.  However, since biting a nurse landed him in Shady Oaks he has to curb his appetite.

To make matters worse, the psychiatrist of Shady Oaks, Dr.  Anderson, who is treating both Finn’s father and Jen enlists Finn’s help against the shadows.  One of Finn’s new traits is that he can see people’s auras and black shadows.  Many of Dr. Anderson’s patients are haunted by these shadows and the doctor believes that Finn can help them.  If he agrees, Dr. Anderson will let Finn’s father come home.  Dr. Anderson can’t see the shadows himself, but he knows there is something different about these patients.

While all this is going on, Finn’s enemy and former schoolmate, Erik Parmely has killed his abusive father and is now on the loose and is murdering those who have betrayed him.  Finn is at the top of his hit list.  And it appears that Erik has acquired evil powers.

The one good thing that Finn has on his side is the loyalty of his friends.  Even with all of the craziness going on in Finn’s life, his friends never stop believing in him.

While I thoroughly enjoyed the first novel in the series I had some issues with the sequel.  This series introduces a lot of concepts that aren’t usually thrown together, such as dryads and Indian burial mounds.  The first book merged all of the elements together.  However, the execution in the sequel falls short.  The concept of the shadows and evil is interesting, but not fully explained.  Also, he relies heavily on the reader to remember all of the complicated elements from the first novel.  Sometimes it would be helpful to provide reminders of why certain things are important and how they are connected.

Also I was surprised that the author let go of one of the main ingredients that worked so well in the first novel, which was Finn’s problem of holding everything together without telling everyone about his special powers.  This added an interesting and fun dilemma.   Instead of keeping his secret he lets a lot of people in and their reactions are hard to believe.  If Finn is a superhero, like his friends believe, wouldn’t it be more fun if not everyone knows.

I believe that VanKirk, with a little work, can create a wonderful sequel to The Dryad’s Kiss.  He proved to me with the first volume that he can take a second look and work out the kinks.  It would be a shame if he didn’t since I read a snippet of the third installment and it holds much promise.

As the novel stands now, I would give it 3 stars out of 5.   If the author does take a second look at the plot development, I think he would have a real winner.

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