The Shadow Arts: Monstrous Devices, Book 2

Book review by
Mary Cosola, Common Sense Media
The Shadow Arts: Monstrous Devices, Book 2 Book Poster Image
Teen and his grandpa battle forces of evil in exciting romp.

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

Several famous paintings are described and discussed. Descriptions of the geography of Germany and France.

Positive Messages

You can choose the kind of person you want to be; your family history doesn't define you. Loyalty is an important personal trait. Sometimes sacrifice is a great show of love. Power isn't necessarily bad if you use it for good.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Alex is a good kid who tries to make good decisions. He grows a lot as a character in this book. His grandfather is brave but not always completely honest. His love for Alex is clear. Harry is a loyal, trustworthy, loving guy. Kenzie is a bully, but he starts to learn empathy.

Violence

Frequent intense fights and battles, with fists, knives, guns drawn (but never fired). Scary, relentless toy robots slash and cut characters. Many harrowing chase scenes. Multiple car chases and crashes. A man's neck is snapped in a video.  A few other people die, though most of the deaths aren't shown. Bullies threaten and taunt a teen.

Sex
Language
Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Adults have some alcohol a few times: a glass of wine, champagne, and brandy. One character smokes a cigarette.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Damien Love's The Shadow Arts, a sequel to Monstrous Devices, is a spooky adventure story. Alex and his grandfather hit the road again, trying to unravel what's behind a series of art thefts. They encounter evil villains and dangerous, relentless robots. There's a good bit of bonding between Alex and his grandfather, as more of Alex's family history comes to light. Expect lots of high-intensity chase and fight scenes, with punching, dragging, knifing, and drawn guns. All of the characters experience mild to serious injuries. The creepy factor is high and might be too intense for sensitive younger readers. There's no swearing or sex and very little in the way of drinking. The story offers some good discussion topics around family history and what makes us who we are, such as can we overcome our genetic lineage and write our own story?

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What's the story?

In THE SHADOW ARTS, Alex and his grandfather once again team up to battle deadly forces of evil. Alex is still trying to figure out all that happened a few months earlier in Europe with his grandfather in Monstrous Devices. He's feeling some lingering physical effects but can't fully piece it all together. A few months later, Grandpa shows up and asks Alex's help again when several paintings are stolen across Europe for mysterious reasons. The disturbing Tall Man and vicious Zia are back with an even more dangerous, creepier robot army than before. The stakes are high, and mysterious supernatural forces are at work. As they encounter one life-threatening situation after another, Alex starts to get some answers about his dead father, his grandfather's past, and why these missions are so important.

 

Is it any good?

This exciting sequel delivers more daring adventures for Alex and his grandfather as they take on supernatural, evil forces. The Shadow Arts is similar in format to the first book in the series, Monstrous Devices. It has a lot of action scenes strung together with some plot that's mostly explained at the end. Alex's grandfather is still a funny, cheeky old chap and adds a lot of the humor to the book, and Alex matures in good ways this time around. They battle more of the creepy lifelike robots, and the Tall Man and Zia push the limits of their power in other shocking ways.

The story is slow to the halfway point, with Alex asking his grandfather lots of questions and his grandfather being evasive. Once the action gets going and Alex's grandfather opens up to Alex, the story gets more exciting and interesting. The book presents some good questions about why people want power and how they use it once they have it. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about fantasy adventure stories like The Shadow Arts that feature lots of scary chases and fights. Why do you think this makes the story more fun? How much is too much? Is supernatural violence more or less scary to you than realistic violence?

  • Many supernatural books show a kid plunged into extreme and dangerous circumstances. What would you do in situations like these? Run home or face the scary stuff? Why do you think this type of story is so popular?

  • In The Shadow Arts, Alex is still desperate to know more about his dad and grandfather in hopes of learning more about himself. How much do you think biology matters? Is who we are more about our learned morals and values than our DNA?

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