Morpheus Road: The Light

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Author: D.J. MacHale

Publication: 2010, Aladdin

Pages: 352

Overall Rating:

Rating for Action:

Quantity of Action:

Age Category: 13+

Brief Summary: Marshall Seaver is being haunted by a character straight out of his imagination: Gravedigger, a skeletal figure armed with a pick.  His best friend, Coop – the only person who would understand – has disappeared.  And as Marshall tries to find him, he slowly becomes convinced that Gravedigger had something to do with it.  His only ally is Coop’s snobby older sister, who joins Marshall in the search after she too finds herself haunted by the mysterious gravedigger.  As people all around them begin to go crazy, Marshall and Sydney are forced to fight for their lives as they search for Coop, hoping all the while that’s it’s not already too late. 

Age of Main Character: 16

What I Liked the Most: MacHale drops a few clues, but largely keeps you guessing for most of the book, trying to figure out how Gravedigger came to life, what really happened to Coop, and why Marshall and Sydney are being haunted.  Not knowing definitely helps to up the terror factor.  That and the fact that Gravedigger can literally show up anywhere at any time, and can use other people to attack Marshall seemingly at will.  People he thinks he can trust turn on him, and there is no place that’s truly safe.

MacHale carries that sense of mystery right through to the end.  The book has a fairly satisfying conclusion, but also leaves us with more than enough questions for the second installment – that and a whole new, even more dangerous, creature for Marshall to face.

And then there’s the character of Gravedigger himself.  Marshall created him, spending the better part of a year drawing hundreds of pictures of the creature.  So in the early part of the book, before the haunting itself actually kicks in, we end up with a clear picture in our minds of who Gravedigger is.  That makes him all the more frightening when he actually begins to show up in the story as a real character.

What I Liked the Least: Near the end of the book we meet a new villain.  I won’t say much more, except that it’s this villain who was at the heart of the haunting all along.  While I enjoyed the fact that this twist nicely sets the stage for a new battle in book two, I was also disappointed because I had such a clear image of Gravedigger in my head, and Gravedigger is scary as all get out.  This new villain felt a lot less clear to me – harder to picture, perhaps more powerful but ultimately less frightening.  I kind of made me wish MacHale had just kept going with Gravedigger.

How Good was the Action? It gets pretty intense.  The chase scenes, the near death escapes, the graveyard – in every case the action moves at a fast clip and MacHale does an excellent job of putting you inside Marshall’s heart and head.  You really experience the action from his perspective, you feel his fear and uncertainty as the action barrels forward.  There’s not much in the way of fight scenes here, but plenty more to get the blood pumping.

How Engaging was the Story? MacHale draws you in through Marshall’s fear and paranoia.  He takes just enough time at the beginning, before everything goes south, to make sure we really know and care about Marshall, to isolate him from his father and his best friend, Coop, and to set up Coop’s older sister Sydney as a frosty snob Marshall wouldn’t think of turning to for help if his life depended on it – which it does.  All that creates a solid foundation for the story, and once the haunting starts there’s no way to put it down.

Overall Assessment: An excellent horror story, full of mystery, terrifying chases, and encounters with malevolent spirits and the forces of evil.  Marshall Seaver is a great lead character, Sydney and Coop make a more than satisfying supporting cast, and Gravedigger is absolutely terrifying as the dark heart of the story.

Profanity: Very little.

Sex: A bit of fantasizing and a chaste kiss.

Violence: Some.  There is blood, but most of it is imaginary.  Marshall is involved in several terrifying chases, and people do die, but most of the deaths happen off page and we don’t actually see them.  There is, however, a very scary scene near the end where Marshall finds himself in a graveyard surrounded by corpses.  So fairly little true violence, but plenty to scare you.

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