Chris Moriarty’s New York of 1900 features a notorious shirtwaist factory, giants of the vaudeville stage, labor disputes, and a dark underworld of magic. Sacha Kessler tries to find out who tampered with the Klezmer King’s electric tuxedo, killing the musician. He also needs to make difficult decisions about his future, especially whether to learn magic. Moriarty cleverly mixes the fantastic with history, including such characters and elements as J.P. Morgaunt, the Pentacle Shirtwaist Factory, the International Wiccan Workers, and Lily Astral, whose connections to historical events may not resonate with the novel’s target audience. The complicated narrative includes philosophy and elements of Judaism, especially kabbalah.
The Watcher in the Shadows is dark and may be disturbing for younger readers, but young adult readers who enjoy fantasy and historical fiction will find themselves engrossed in Moriarty’s version of turn-of-the-century New York. It is helpful to have read The Inquisitor’s Apprentice, the first book in the series, in order to easily follow the plot. Note that the characters frequently use Yiddish words and expressions, and the review copy did not include a glossary. Recommended for ages 10 – 14.