Most people familiar with 1980s pop culture have at least heard of The Dark Crystal. Yep, that weird-yet-cool fantasy movie featuring all those creepy puppets. The one that pre-dated The Labyrinth by a few years.
Author J.M. Lee must be a fan of the film, because he has crafted a fantastic prequel that is every bit as awesome as the original story. Here we have Shadows of The Dark Crystal, which takes place several years before the events of the film. This story centers on Naia, a strong-willed Gelfling girl from the swamp who wants more for herself than what her destiny has in store. She gets her wish when she is summoned to the Crystal Castle to testify at the trial of her brother, who is being accused of treason by the Skeksis overlords. She gets more than she bargained for out when she agrees to undertake this journey. Be careful what you wish for? Perhaps...
Shadows of The Dark Crystal is much like the Star Wars prequels (minus the annoyance of Jar-Jar) in that those who know the original story know how things will turn out. You know how things will end up, but the prequels let you know why. Going into the book, I knew there would be no happy ending for Naia and her people. But the story gave some insight into why Naia and those of her race became targets for extinction.
Overall, I found Shadows of the Dark Crystal to be a worthy addition to The Dark Crystal saga and, at no time did I feel like I was reading fan fiction. Perhaps my only complaint was there was so much odd terminology/dialect that I kept having to flip to the glossary/appendix at the back of the book. And this disrupted my enjoyment of the story.
p.s. Haven't watched the original Dark Crystal movie yet? Watch it before reading the book. --AJB