Review: The Shadow Glass by Josh Winning (plus an excerpt from the novel)

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This double feature - review and excerpt from the novel - is part of The Shadow Glass Blog Tour with Josh Winning.

Josh Winning's The Shadow Glass was published by Titan Books in March 2022.

Josh Winning
Josh Winning

Josh Winning is a nostalgia nut, book/film lover and author of The Shadow Glass, which is perfect for fans of Henson Company puppet classics Labyrinth and The Dark Crystal, and The NeverEnding Story.

He is senior film writer at Radio Times, contributing editor at Total Film magazine, writer at SFX and Den of Geek, and the co-host of movie podcast Torn Stubs. He has been on set with Kermit the Frog (and Miss Piggy), devoured breakfast with zombies on The Walking Dead, and sat on the Iron Throne on the Dublin set of Game of Thrones.

Josh lives in London with his cat Penny and dreams of one day convincing Sigourney Weaver to yell “Goddammit!” at him.

Click here to visit author official website.

The Shadow Glass by Josh Winning
The Shadow Glass
by Josh Winning

A thrilling race against the clock to save the world from fantasy creatures from a cult 80s film – perfect for fans of Henson Company puppet classics like Labyrinth and The Dark Crystal, and The NeverEnding Story.

“There's a stirring sense of adventure, excitement, and terror running throughout. A treat for fans of the movies that inspired it.” – Publishers Weekly

“Sometimes dark, but never heartless; gritty yet soulbaring. It stands proud with a VHS copy of its favorite movie held aloft, daring you to say it's not the greatest film ever.” – Edgar Cantero, author of Meddling Kids

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Josh Winning's The Shadow Glass is a fresh and captivating fantasy novel that is sure to please everybody who loves immersive escapism. It will especially be of interest to readers who are fascinated by 80s popular culture and are familiar with such classic fantasy films as Labyrinth, The Dark Crystal and The NeverEnding Story.

I'm pleased to say that Josh Winning's The Shadow Glass is one of the best fantasy novels I've during the recent months. This novel is an absolute must-read for fantasy readers who love stories that differ from the norm, because it's enticingly weird and compelling from start to finish and - what's best - it has plenty of heart and soul.

The story begins with Jack Corman arriving at his late father's house to sell The Shadow Glass puppets in order to earn money. There, he meets a teenaged boy, Toby, who's a devoted Shadow Glass fanboy. He also meets his cousin, Amelia, who now runs his father's studio. She tries to convince Jack to write a script for the new Shadow Glass film and also tries to find the original Shadow Glass prop... During a freak storm, he hears sounds from the attic and when he investigates what's happening, he notices that the puppets his father has created are alive... Soon, he finds himself on a quest to save London...

I was positively surprised by the characterisation and the characters in this novel. I especially enjoyed reading about Jack, but was also impressed by the secondary characters, because they are unforgettable and the author writes about them in such an amazing way that you can't help but love them.

Here are a few words about the characters:

- I find Jack an intriguing protagonist, because he has bitter and painful memories about life with his father. His relationship with his father was not happy, because he felt that his father was more interested in The Shadow Glass and its fantasy world, Iri, than in him and his achievements. His father also drank a lot and he remembers all too well what it was like to live with him. Although Jack is now an adult, he is still deeply traumatised by the past events.

- Toby is an enjoyable and sweet character, because he's a devoted fan of The Shadow Glass. He knows a lot about The Shadow Glass and its fantasy world and belongs to a fan group called Shadow Glass Guild. It was interesting to read about how Toby meets Jack, because he is enthusiastic about everything connected to The Shadow Glass. Toby is gay and has a boyfriend, Huw, who is also interested in The Shadow Glass (I liked how the author wrote about Toby's homosexuality, because he handled it in a natural way).

- Amelia is also an interesting character. I won't reveal much about her in this review in fear of writing too many spoilers, but I can mention that the scenes in which she is featured are interesting.

The puppets of The Shadow Glass are perfectly described and evoke images of the puppets in Jim Henson's fantasy films. Some of them are good and heroic while others are evil. I was thrilled to read about the skalions and their queen, Kunin Yillda, because they're amphibian creatures who are villains. I was also taken by Zavanna and Brol, who are fox-like kettu creatures.

In this novel, Josh Winning perfectly conveys to his readers how a film can become larger than life and mean a lot to various people who idolise it. He writes excellently about fandom and how fans behave when they are deeply interested in something, because fans can be extremely devoted and may have deep feelings towards the things they adore. I was also impressed by how fluently the author tells about what it is like to live in the shadow of something great and famous, because it inevitably has an effect on the person.

This novel succeeds in blending light-hearted entertainment with dark themes ranging from alcoholism to loneliness in an immersive and emotional way. The author handled these elements excellently, because they were an integral part of the story and were firmly connected to the protagonist's life.

If you've lived in the 80s and have seen Jim Henson's fantasy films, you'll find a lot to love in this novel, because it's kind of like a love letter to them. However, you don't need to be a child of the 80s to enjoy this novel, because it draws you in and you'll find yourself amazed by the story and its twists. There's a lot of subtext and popular culture references in this novel that fantasy readers will find intriguing.

Before I finish this review, I have to mention that I'd love to see this novel filmed, because in capable hands it could become a stunning film. I also want to say that I look forward to reading what the author writes next, because I loved this novel and found it entertaining.

My final words are:

Josh Winning's The Shadow Glass is a contemporary fantasy novel unlike any other. It's both modern and nostalgic, not to mention thrilling and emotional. It has everything (action, adventure, depth, excitement and nostalgia) you could ever hope to find in a compelling fantasy novel. Please, read this novel and treat yourself to an amazing fantasy adventure.

Highly recommended!

Excerpt from The Shadow Glass:

Now that quiet had settled over the house, Jack felt stupid. He was letting his imagination get away from him. Nothing was moving in here. How could it?

They were just puppets.

He got to his feet and fumbled for the light switch. As a bare bulb blinked on, he felt the burn of a hundred eyes.

More puppets.

Too many to count were dotted all over the attic, their smiles fixed, their frowns unmoving. Not just skalions but wugs, too. Wizened little gnome-like creatures in woolly hats that snuggled together amid the spider-webbed furniture.

Jack surveyed it all with an uneasy familiarity. When he was a child, these characters meant everything to him. They were his friends. His family. His playmates. Now, though, they stirred only distaste and, somewhere beneath that, a distant sense of longing.

For a brief window before Bob retreated into himself, before the TV interviews and ‘Crackers Corman!’, before the delirium and the drinking and the blackouts, before Bob’s inability to show up to a single important event in Jack’s life… Jack had been happy.

He felt the weight of the bottle in his hand, and was about to take another swig when he spotted a glass cabinet in the corner.

It towered over the surrounding furniture like a monument. The sight of it caused a shiver to travel through him.

‘Dune,’ he murmured.

There it was. In the dark of the cabinet’s interior stood another puppet. The reason Jack had fought his way through this haunted funfair ride of a house.

The fox-like figure almost looked alive, as if it had been waiting for this very moment, and as he approached, Jack discerned the adoring detail that had been lavished upon Dune’s creation. The eyes held galaxies of feeling and Dune’s lips were parted as if preparing to speak, his fur-tipped ears alert.

He was crafted out of foam prosthetics threaded with dense black and rust-coloured fur, and he wore hardy kettu attire that protected him from desert storms. A mud-stained breast plate, brown leggings and a pair of lightweight leather boots. The very best a movie budget could buy.

As a kid, Jack had wished more than anything that Dune would talk. He would hold staring contests with him across the breakfast table, or he’d lie in bed at night and whisper in his ear, ‘I know you can, I promise I won’t tell.’

But Dune was stubborn. Most kettu were. It was the quality that separated them from just about everything else in the world of Iri. The hero-making quality.

‘Hi, Dune,’ Jack said quietly.