Published March 22nd, 2022 by Titan Books J ack Corman is failing at life. Jobless, jaded, and facing the threat of eviction, he’s also reel...

Book Review || The Shadow Glass by Josh Winning


Published March 22nd, 2022 by Titan Books


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.

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Eighties babies, do you remember the magic of your childhood watching Atreyu set off on his journey to save the Empress or Jen and Kira on the quest to retrieve the crystal? What about Sarah's trek to the center of the labyrinth or Jack traveling to Darkness' castle to release the unicorn? All of those movies that we watched a million times over wishing that magic was real and that we, too, had an epic fantasy quest that we were destined for. Listen to me when I tell you, this book will bring all those feelings back for you in your monotonous, suburban 8-5 life. Maybe that's a bit harsh but can it compare to a grand adventure? The Shadow Glass is just that; a grand adventure where fiction meets fact.

In 1986, Bob Corman constructed a world of warring tribes of creatures in Iri and brought them to life on film. While the film didn't do so well upon release, it became a sensation years later as all the kids who grew up watching it, well, grew up idolizing the film. We're talking Comic cons and cosplaying the characters that ingrained themselves upon young hearts and minds. Poor Bob never got to see it play out though and instead spent his life drinking his bitterness away. Towards the end, Bob became seemingly confused, frequently stating that the characters and worlds were real—the apparent ramblings of a senile mind for all to see. He was so enamored of this other world that his own son Jack spent his life feeling unloved and forgotten, becoming quite bitter himself.

Now before you go feeling too sorry for Jack, the only reason he's even in this story is that he's returned to his father's home after his death. He's not there to close the estate or reminisce about his father. He's there hoping to retrieve one of his father's treasured puppets to sell to pay off his own debts. Yeah, he's a peach. Only he discovers that his father wasn't so crazy as the world of Iri literally comes to life in the attic of his father's house. Jack is quickly thrown back into the memories of his childhood as he and his newfound nerdy motley crew set out to find all the pieces of the mirror that will put Iri back to right. 

The Shadow Glass was a surprise to me, to be honest. I went into it with no preconceived notions and found myself absolutely unable to set it down. By the end of the first few chapters, I was invested in Iri and its inhabitants and in Jack's tale as well. There is a bit of everything we 80s kids loved about the epic fantasies of our youth—action, adventure, great villains and even greater heroes, high stakes, humor, and even the unexpected emotional tug on your heartstrings. The stories of our youth never shied away from the darkness and neither does The Shadow Glass. Josh Winning weaves all the enchantment with hard topics such as Bob's alcoholism and Jack's feelings of abandonment. There is absolutely no doubt that he knows his fantasy tropes and employs them liberally. Instead of these tired tropes feeling unoriginal, he manages to spin them into something familiar yet new, rocking us 80s babies in the cradle of the stories that we cut our teeth on.