Review by Brennan LaFaro
Vaughn A. Jackson’s Touched by Shadows may remind some readers of King’s Firestarter on the surface. The premise of a child with telekinetic powers experimented on before finding freedom is nothing new, but discovers new things to say in Jackson’s capable hands. That, and a character we can let into our hearts and truly root for in Oumou.
Touched by Shadows gives the reader a taste of the horrid minds that would so cruelly experiment on a child, but Jackson rolls his sleeves up pretty early on and shows why he’s a horror writer. It leads us away from the predictable path of watching over our shoulders for corporate lackeys to try and steal Oumou away, and takes us to a new, and even more terrible locale. The racist south. Jackson paints a picture of how racism in a small town can hide behind false smiles and in the “way we’ve always done things” of institutions, but can also rear its ugly head behind closed doors. Jackson strips away the idea that racism is anything but bad people doing bad things with hate occupying their hearts. No matter how it might present on the surface.
The family that takes Oumou in, while presenting as the kind of Christian we hope and strive for, is not perfect. One of the biggest strengths of this book is the way Harold Chastaine protects Oumou, while also harboring doubts about whether he’s doing the right thing. His changes of mind aren’t necessarily endearing, but are authentic to a man trying to do the right thing while prioritizing the protection of his family.
The constantly lurking presence of the King of Thorns makes for an exceptionally shudder-inducing villain, and Jackson shines in comparing the embodiment of pure evil to the evil that exists within men’s hearts. It’s a thorough examination and one that leaves the reader thinking long after the last page is turned.
Touched by Shadows is an engrossing story that draws the reader in and asks them not to look away for a moment. Jackson has such sights to show you and you’d be hard pressed not to get invested.