The Men in the Shadows is about a middle school boy named Alex White who seeks to overcome an ancient evil organization that has existed on Earth for centuries. The book focuses on Alex and is attempt to convey several different ideas and themes such as Perception versus Reality, Good versus Evil, and so on. The story is set during the 1700s, where the general narrative of the story focuses on an ancient evil force that is awakened by five wealthy men. The evil force manifests itself as a 10-foot tall shadow man and serves as the main antagonist of the story. The evil force terrifies the five wealthy men and forces them to swear an oath to him, an oath in which the men must sacrifice one of their children as a show of loyalty. The evil force also demands that the five wealthy men maintain their monetary status, as well as keep up worldwide chaos, while passing down the information of the key details of their group to their children. The storyline moves forward several years to the present, where Alex, who lives with his mother, father and two older brothers, is chosen by the “ancient counsel” to battle against the forces of evil that have been manifesting all the while. On that same day, the shadow man reappears, bringing forth with him several disastrous events, such as bombings and mass shootings. During this period of chaos, Alex encounters Mr. Knight, a descendent of the five wealthy men, as well as his daughter Faith, who serves as Alex’s love interest. Alex begins accepting rides home from Mr. Knight, much to the dismay of his family, and even visits their home on an occasion during which Mr. Knight suspects the boy will bring trouble to his organization in the future. Mr. Knight informs the organization of his suspicions towards Alex, to which he is met with a threat by the shadow man, which was to kill Alex and his family in 48 hours or be killed along with his own. The next day, Mr. Knight tricks Alex and his family into coming to his house for safety. Once inside, Mr. Knight separates Alex from his family and attempts to kill him before the shadow man appears before the both of them, threatening both of their lives. Alex realizes the situation and stands up to the shadow man, leading to a fight between the two of them.
The Men in the Shadows is, in a word: Simple.
It is simple in a good way, in that the main character Alex White, serves to inspire youthful readers with his courageous attitude and intelligence, making for a main character that serves as an excellent role model. The Men in the Shadows also has several themes such as the importance of family, as well as the difficulty of overcoming peer pressure. One of the more central themes told through Alex were the decisions he made in order to get closer to his love interest, Faith. I feel like this serves well to educate readers, both young and old, that Alex had to eventually be held accountable for his actions later on in the story in order to show how this behavior is unwise and could prove fatal. Another theme I was quite fond of was the theme of ending up at a different place from where you start, which is something everyone can learn from as they focus on Alex as the main character. Alex started off as the little kid, barely making the football team, and then went off to save the world, showing readers the possibility that all things can be accomplished and overcome through determination, belief in one’s self and having an overall love for your fellow man.
The main characters in the book, from Alex’s family to Mr. Knight and his daughter Faith who is Alex’s primary love interest, all serve to motivate and give Alex something to work toward. Alex wants to be like his brothers and match their accolades, while at the same time wanting to win the affection of Faith, the latter of which also serves to show that blind love can be toxic, especially when you have to do the wrong things to obtain it. Every character fits in and has a place to shine, and they provide Alex with either an idea or some inspiration that allows him to move forward. Every character has an individual purpose for Alex and gives off a strong sense of community, which I personally find very charming.
The Men in the Shadows certainly gives off a very religious tone, with God himself being mentioned in reference to Alex’s family being described as “God-fearing” and with Alex crediting his victory over the evil force as being “By the grace of GOD”. Because of this, I feel the ideal audience for this book would be Christian families, although the story can appeal to everyone. That isn’t to say that the book pushes God into the face of the reader, but simply stating that this book can be enjoyed by anyone regardless of their religious association.
On the topic of audience, at times the book has a funny and childlike tone as well, which is conveyed through events like Alex kicking his bully so hard he “poops his pants” and the other children going on to call him “Poopy” for the rest of his days. These types of things appeal to the youth, because portions of it are written as if from a child’s perspective. However, certain events are somewhat dark, particularly instances in which the shadow man is involved, because they typically end with a thoroughly described death of some kind. From his very first encounter in the preface where he demands human sacrifice, all the way to the end where he outright threatens to rape and kill the adolescent Faith along with her mother, the evil force is extremely dark and threatening. Contrasting scenarios like these serve to make the overall mood and tone of the story change drastically from time to time.
Overall, The Men in the Shadows is something I would recommend to someone looking for a quick read and a feel-good story of good versus evil. The Men in the Shadows is a wholesome story about the importance of family values, love, and self-confidence, all of which are fine themes in their own right, and which can only serve to benefit the reader going forward. All in all, I simply wish that there was more, simply because of the potential this type of story has, and I feel as though the author barely scratched the surface of what was possible. Hopefully, there will be a sequel to the book that will allow us to find out more about these characters.