By Dustin Cabeal
Cast No Shadow surprised me in many ways. It wasn’t until nearly the end that I figured out where the story was going and even then, I was left with some unanswered questions, that may never be answered.
Greg is a boy born without a shadow, which ends meaning something in this world that he lives in, but that will be for you to read. Currently, though, his lack of shadow doesn’t matter as his dad’s new girlfriend has moved in with him and he’s moping about his room. Eventually, his one and only friend Layla drags him out of the house to visit an abandoned house. The lore of the house is that if you try to take anything out that the house will stop you. This ends up being true as Greg runs into a ghost named Eleanor. She’s beautiful, his age and has been dead for over seventy years. After his first visit he ends up spending more time with Eleanor, and they discover that they can touch and hold hands.
None of this changes Greg’s home life as he continues to avoid Ruth, his dad’s girlfriend. He also loses his best friend to his worst enemy when Layla starts dating Jake. Jake is a strange character. We learn that he tormented Greg one year of school when he thought he was a vampire, but then after Layla beat Jake up, he wanted to become best friends with him. Either I missed it, or it was never really explained why that was unless it was to get close to Layla; which he doesn’t end up needed Greg’s help with in the end. At any rate, Greg’s shadow is eventually freed when he and Eleanor kiss. Which strangely only ends up being one of the many problems that Greg must solve by the end of the tale.
Aside from my unanswered questions, my only gripe with the story is its need to include a narration. There are two narrators in the beginning, but as the story gets rolling, they’re needed less and less. That and they’re never present during big emotional moments to give even more insight into the main character’s thoughts. Mostly they’re there as a quick cheat to explain minor details. You could take the narration out, and the story would read the same, just with less jokey moments that don’t fit the story.
Otherwise, the story and the pacing is quite good. As I said, I didn’t see how all the pieces were lining up until the final act of the story, and by then it was just obvious. That’s great writing though because it kept me guessing, wondering and nervous for the outcome. Speaking of the outcome, it’s not what I expected, at least not all the way. There might be a second story in the works that might build on the story here, but it, unfortunately, leaves some holes in this story.
One thing that the story does a tremendous job on is the character development. Greg’s journey is very relatable and handled believably. It’s not just him though, almost every character in the story has some kind of journey they go through which makes them rich characters. The artwork adds to this because their expressions add to the development and believability of the characters.
The artwork ended up being a strange beast for me. At times the style fits the story and looked great while other times it lacked detail and substance. It wasn’t particularly something I liked at first either. The opening is not the strongest for either the story or the artwork, but after that, it grew on me. Still, I couldn’t get over the panels that just seemed lacking in composition compared to the rest of the story. The art didn’t stop me from enjoying the story, but it took a long while to warm up to it for sure.
Cast No Shadow ends up being a quirky coming of age story that takes on the changes in life that happen at our most delicate. The story and art stumble in places, but ultimately find its way and presents a story that I enjoyed reading as an adult, but one I would have loved to have read as a child.
Cast No Shadow
Writer: Nick Tapalansky
Artist: Anissa Espinosa
Publisher: First Second Books