Shadows of the Dark Crystal: Jim Henson's Dark Crystal, Book 1

Book review by
Michael Berry, Common Sense Media
Shadows of the Dark Crystal: Jim Henson's Dark Crystal, Book 1 Book Poster Image
Fantasy prequel doesn't match the original movie.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Shadows of the Dark Crystal emphasizes family loyalty, persistence, and bravery in the face of adversity.

Positive Messages

Appearances can be deceiving, and strange-looking individuals can prove to be friendly and helpful. Perseverance is usually rewarded.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Naia puts her family first when danger comes to her village. She's brave, resourceful, and willing to set off by herself and stand trial in her missing brother's place.

Violence

Shadows of the Dark Crystal has a few violent scenes, but they're generally mild and don't contain much bloodshed. The chief weapon used is a bola, basically a rock on a string. There are a couple of intense chase scenes, but they're not likely to bother most readers. Sensitive readers might be disturbed at Gelflings having their "essence" drained from them.

Sex
Language
Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Shadows of the Dark Crystal is a prequel to what happens in The Dark Crystal, the popular 1982 fantasy movie by Jim Henson, creator of the Muppets. It's the first original novel set in that world. Aside from the climactic battle between the heroes and villains, the novel has few scenes of violence. Gelflings are magically drained of their "essence" by the ugly and cruel Skeksis, which might upset some younger readers. But there's no swearing, sexual content, or substance use.

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What's the story?

Having grown up in a swamp, the young Gelfling Naia, the main character of SHADOWS OF THE DARK CRYSTAL, is ready for an adventure. She doesn't expect it to come at the expense of her twin brother Gurjin, however. Accused of treason by the Skeksis overlords who rule the land of Thra from the Castle of the Crystal, Gurjin has disappeared from his post. Naia sets out alone to confront his accusers, meeting a couple of important allies along the way. She discovers, however, that a vein of corrupted crystal now runs through Thra, bringing to the land a darkness that threatens to swallow everyone.

Is it any good?

It's been more than 30 years since the release of Jim Henson's original fantasy film, but this prose prequel demonstrates that there's plenty of energy left in the concept. Now Shadows of the Dark Crystal shows what transpired long before the tale told in the movie. The initial volume of a four-part series, this book starts slowly but gradually picks up steam as Naia and her compatriots draw closer to their destination. The conclusion feels abrupt, however, its revelations obscured in a somewhat confusing action scene.

Author J.M. Lee does a good job of sketching in some details not addressed in the original movie, but the plot sometimes seems to be marking time so the story can be told over four volumes. Dark Crystal fans will probably enjoy this prequel, but newcomers may not be enraptured.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how Shadows of the Dark Crystal chronicles the hero's journey. How does Naia fulfill the various stages of being a hero?

  • Naia has dreams that seem to foretell the future. How are our dreams influenced by what happens while we're awake?

  • How is violence used in Shadows of the Dark Crystal? What strategies do the characters use to protect themselves and others?

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