The Watch­er in the Shadows

Chris Mori­ar­ty; Mark Edward Gey­er, illus.
  • Review
By – November 8, 2013

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.

Mar­ci Lavine Bloch earned her MLS from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Mary­land, a BA from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Penn­syl­va­nia and an MA in Eng­lish Lit­er­a­ture from Ford­ham Uni­ver­si­ty. She has worked in syn­a­gogue and day school libraries and is cur­rent­ly fin­ish­ing her term on the Syd­ney Tay­lor Book Award Committee.

Discussion Questions