The Seer Of Shadows – Book Review

The Seer of Shadows by Avi

The Seer of Shadows

Written By: Avi



Horace Carpetine does not believe in ghosts.

Raised to believe in science and reason, Horace Carpetine passes off spirits as superstition. Then he becomes an apprentice photographer and discovers an eerie—and even dangerous—supernatural power in his very own photographs.

When a wealthy lady orders a portrait to place by her daughter’s gravesite, Horace’s employer, Enoch Middleditch, schemes to sell her more pictures—by convincing her that her daughter’s ghost has appeared in the ones he’s already taken.

It’s Horace’s job to create images of the girl. Yet Horace somehow captures the girl’s spirit along with her likeness. And when the spirit escapes the photographs, Horace discovers he’s released a ghost bent on a deadly revenge. . . .


  • Age Range:8 – 12 years
  • Grade Level:4 – 7
  • Paperback:202 pages
  • Publisher:HarperCollins; Reprint edition (September 15, 2009)
  • Language:English
  • ISBN-10:0060000171
  • ISBN-13:978-0060000172


Character Believability:

The main character, Horace Carpentine, is a 14 year old scientifically minded boy. His boss, Enoch Middleditch, is a ‘society’ photographer and a flighty money grubber. They live in New York during the year 1872, when spirit photography is becoming popular.

Mr. and Mrs. Fredrick Von Macht are upper class society members who attempt to seem soft, sweet, and full of grief. However, they are eventually unable to hide their true personalities…which are not very nice.

Pegg, the Von Macht’s black servant girl, helps Horace with several things, including the main problem of the story, and they become great friends and allies.

Eleanor, the Von Macht’s dearly departed daughter, is starting to crop up in more than just the hushed conversation and covered paintings. She isn’t pleased with her ‘family’ at all.

As much as I wish I could tell you these characters are fully developed, multi-dimensional characters…I cannot. However, I have given this category a 4 out of 5 stars because, even as only one or two dimensional characters, they are well developed and definitely believable. This was written as a Middle Grade novel, however, and I do so wish the characters had been fleshed out just a smidgen more.

Flow and Pace:

Once I got into the story, I felt the pacing went at a very nice clip for the feel of the story. The first two pages did move a little slowly for me, but overall I felt that the pacing was very well done.

The flow is slightly choppy in place or two, as though they got into a situation or segment and then weren’t too certain how to get out of it. However, this is also mostly well done. I have given the pacing and flow 4 out of 5 stars as well.

Reader Engagement:

I think I would have found the story a bit more engaging earlier on if the characters had been made to be more in depth. However, the storyline was woven well enough, and the pace moved quickly enough, that I almost gave this category a rating of 4 instead of the 3.5 out of 5 that it wound up with.

Reader Enrichment:

The author includes some interesting information about the art of early photography. There are also a few historically accurate and very cool facts about the old practice of so-called spirit photography. I found these snippets and odd facts to be incredibly fun and mentally stimulating. I always love finding fiction that includes awesome information like this for the audience.

The book also included Literature Circle Questions and Activity ideas, which are wonderful enrichment resources. With the added bonus of these questions and activities, The Seer of Shadows can easily be used with small book clubs, literature circles, or larger classes without having to change much, if anything, about the enrichment. I have given this category 4 out of 5 stars.

Reader Enjoyment:

I found this book to be a quick and fairly enjoyable read. Though I did have a few small issues, as I pointed out previously, I felt that on the whole it was very well written and a great read for the intended audience of middle grade students.

In fact, there may possibly have been a place or two in the story that sent shivers scurrying up and down my own spine. I have given this category a 4 out of 5 stars as well.

Cover Art:

 I absolutely love the cover art, taken and copy written in 2009 by Mark Tucker, MergeLeft Reps, Inc. I felt like the photograph was absolutely the perfect touch for the book. 4.5 out of 5 stars for the cover art.

Back Copy:

I feel that the back copy is interesting, well written, and pulls at the potential reader to know more. Any back copy that makes you want to pick up the book and read is a good thing! 4 out of 5 stars for the back copy.

Overall Rating:

4 out of 5 stars overall for The Seer of Shadows by Avi.

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