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The Gathering (Shadow House)

Review

The Gathering (Shadow House)

Have you ever had the feeling that you might be different from other people? That you have a talent, an insight or some special ability that sets you apart from others, for better or for worse? Maybe you’re a singer, a painter, a talented writer --- maybe you’re all of those things. If you keep at it, there’s a good chance that your more special qualities will have you getting noticed, standing out in a way that puts you front and center. But maybe getting noticed isn’t what you want. Maybe getting noticed is dangerous.

In THE GATHERING by Dan Poblocki, being special can be deadly. We follow five characters --- Poppy, Marcus, Azumi, Dylan and Dash --- who are each remarkable in their own unique way. Poppy Caldwell has spent most of her life in group homes, orphaned and isolated without any family to care for her, and is bullied by her peers for being “weird.” Thankfully, Poppy does have one friend: a dark haired girl with pale skin who she sees every time she looks in the mirror --- and no, it’s not her reflection.

"SHADOW HOUSE is the first book in a trilogy, so not all mysteries are revealed in this initial volume, but author Dan Poblocki doles out enough ghoulish scares and inky-black atmosphere to satisfy any reader looking to be spooked."

Marcus Geller is similarly an outcast, both at school and in his own family. He’s socially awkward and a fair bit nerdy, but finds solace in playing music. There’s a strange, intangible tune that only he can hear, which inspires him to play along with it. He doesn’t know where the music comes from, but it’s oddly familiar.

Azumi Endo, on the other hand, is a top flight student who by all appearances is doing well. What her friends don’t know, though, is that she sleepwalks at night, often deep into the woods behind her house. Azumi’s parents think that this is due to residual trauma from the unexplained disappearance of her twin sister the year before, on a family trip to Japan. And maybe they’re right. But maybe they’re not.

Dylan and Dash Wright are twin brothers famous for their dual role on the TV show “Dad’s So Clueless” where they both play the tricky younger son, Scooter. Dylan’s a better actor than Dash, more of a natural, but it won’t matter for long as they’ve just been written out of the show. Naturally, they’re looking for their next project and being so young they aren’t too picky about parts.

Soon enough they each find their situations rapidly changing. Poppy learns of a distant relative, Great Aunt Delphinia, who offers to adopt her from the group home, giving her the family she’s always desired. Marcus receives an invitation to the Larkspur Academy for The Performing Arts, where he can flourish in his musical studies far away from the derision of his mother and siblings. Azumi, while researching East Coast boarding schools as a way to try and put her sister’s disappearance behind her, discovers a website for the storied and prestigious Larkspur School, in Upstate New York. Dash and Dylan are offered the role of a lifetime in a new horror movie from Hollywood producer, Del Larkspur. What they don’t know --- and what none of them can know --- is that they are all being drawn to the same place: Larkspur Manor; better known as Shadow House.

It’s not long after they each arrive at Shadow House that the dark and sinister nature of the place is demonstrated. Doors appear and disappear at random, hallways change and shift like currents in a river, and the exits have shut firmly behind them. Add to that the disturbing appearance of children wearing papier mâché animal masks, and the five gathered souls quickly despair at their horrific predicament.

SHADOW HOUSE is the first book in a trilogy, so not all mysteries are revealed in this initial volume, but author Dan Poblocki doles out enough ghoulish scares and inky-black atmosphere to satisfy any reader looking to be spooked. SHADOW HOUSE is notably scarier than most young adult novels with some rather disturbing images, but any reader of GOOSEBUMPS should feel right at home with this book (although maybe save reading it for the daylight hours). There’s also an intriguing “second screen experience” where readers can use their smartphones or tablets to unlock further terrifying tales from clues scattered throughout the book, providing much additional material for the curious. It’s exciting to think about where the story might go, as the awful secrets of Shadow House aren’t easily uncovered. Take a trip inside, if you dare!

Reviewed by Killian Walsh on September 28, 2016

The Gathering (Shadow House)
(Shadow House #1)
by Dan Poblocki