The Seer of Shadows

by Avi

Paperback, 2009




HarperCollins (2009), Edition: Reprint, 202 pages


In New York City in 1872, fourteen-year-old Horace, a photographer's apprentice, becomes entangled in a plot to create fraudulent spirit photographs, but when Horace accidentally frees the real ghost of a dead girl bent on revenge, his life takes a frightening turn.


½ (193 ratings; 3.9)

User reviews

LibraryThing member kikione
A young boy is working as a photographer's apprentice. He finds himself an unwilling accomplice in a ruse to trick clients into believing that they are getting photos of the client's dead loved ones. In their first case this young apprentice quickly realizes that their trickery isn't the only
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ghostly images they are capturing. He befriends a young girl at the client's house and they work together to uncover the truth.
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LibraryThing member mysteriesrme
Horace Carpentine is a young apprentice to the crafty but slippery Mr. Middleditch in 1872. Business is slow and uninteresting until a serious servant girl stands beneath the Middleditch sign and enquires of Horace if the photographer can provide a portrait for her society lady employer.
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ensues is Avi's mastery in building suspense with each chapter. The society lady, Mrs. Von Macht, wants a portrait of herself to give solace to her beloved, dead daughter, Eleanora. Mrs. Von Macht explains that portraits of her dearly departed daughter abound around the home and give her great comfort. Why not make a portrait of Mrs. Von Macht to place on Eleanora's grave so the departed girl will also find comfort.

With that request, Middleditch sets out to make a name for himself. He tells Horace to use the spy camera to take pictures of the dead daughter and then the photograph of Eleanora will be superimposed on the portrait of Mrs. Von Macht. But not all is as it seems: there are hardly any photographs of Eleanora as Mrs. Von Macht describes. Horace forges an alliance with the servant girl with dark brooding eyes. She explains that there are not as many photographs of the dead daughter and that Eleanora's death is not how Mrs. Von Macht describes.
Avi employs simple but elegant language to convey a gripping story. I could not put it down.
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LibraryThing member elliottm
I tend to like many, not all of Avi's books, but this one was great. It was very spooky and suspenseful.
LibraryThing member jen.redmini
Horace has been sent to work with Mr. Middleditch as an apprentice. What luck Mr. Middleditch is having. A grieving mother would like a picture taken and she is willing to pay any price. Mr. Middleditch figures if he adds in the ghostly image of her daughter his business will flourish.
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this a cruel trick or is the ghost of Eleanora really there.
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LibraryThing member knielsen83
A ghost story that is a little more scary than I would have expected. A boy apprentice finds that he can capture ghosts in his photographs and finds one particularly angry ghost girl who is out for revenge. With the help of the servant girl in the family she seeks revenge on, the boy tries to stop
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what could be murder.
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LibraryThing member foxt
I'm listening to the audio book version. I'm up to chapter 18. So far, I like the writing but find the narration to be a bit slow. For a ghost story, it is moving way too slowly for my taste. I wish I could speed it up. The book had a great ending.
LibraryThing member airdna
This book is about a boy who discovers he has the ability to photograph ghosts. It's 1872, and 14-year-old Horace is apprenticed to a photographer. When a wealthy woman hires the photographer to take her portrait, and mentions that her daughter Eleanora has just died, the photographer decides to
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trick her into believing he can capture an image of Eleanora's ghost. But it turns out that not only can Horace really make Eleanora's ghostly image appear in a photo, but doing so brings her spirit back from the dead....and now she's looking for revenge.....
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LibraryThing member delphica
(#63 in the 2008 Book Challenge)

This is one of those times where what I thought this book was going to be about would have been a better book than what it is actually about. It's set in New York City in the late 19th century, and a young boy is serving as a photographer's apprentice. Then the
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photographer decides to start a little scam making fake spiritualist photographs. I was really liking it at this point. It's Avi, so the story is nicely layered and everyone's motivations feel both complex and appropriate. The parts about the early days of photography, and how it worked, and how one would go about making a fake spiritualist portrait were awesome. Then it turned into an real ghost story, which I would have been fine with on its own ... but I was a little unsettled at the premise that the best response to fake spiritualist photography is genuine spiritualist photography. I'm sure I'm thinking on this too deeply.

Grade: A-
Recommended: All the elements are pretty neat, and despite my philosophical differences with it, I was eager to see how everything was going to turn out. Good for readers who like ghost stories with historical settings ... it would probably frustrate kids who don't care about life in Gilded Age New York.
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LibraryThing member RoppPop
This story of the year of 1872 and in New York city is an interesting yet mystery type of book. It deals with a young man learning to photograph in the apprentice job for an older gentleman in the city. The plot of this book brings about a death in a family and the step mother wanting to "find" her
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daughter even though she is dead. The friendship of the family's servant girl, and the finding out that a "seer of shadows" is the young man himself, scares them all but tells the reader that the truth needs to be found out properly. The "seer" means "a person who sees visions." To physically see the daughter who has been dead for some years - staring at you and running across the cemetary makes the young man wonder why it is him who sees it.

Each page on this book brings a wonder of what will happen next. It also allows the reader to wonder how I would feel if it is me who sees this ghost.

The writer knows how to hide this mystic characters behind a curtain or driving a horse ridden cab. The mixed up feelings allow the reader to experience a new type or style of emotions that they never have felt before.
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LibraryThing member rcatthelib1
Nice mystery. Avi does a great job telling the story of a seer of shadows or people in photographs no one else sees.
LibraryThing member 59Square
Horace is an apprentice photographer in 19th century New York. A servant brings her mistress to Horace's master for a photograph to supposedly comfort her dead daughter who is "restless". The true story is much more complicated than that, including that the daughter is her niece, who they have
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neglected and then taken her wealth to help themselves. Horace's master sees that he can take advantage of her supposed grief, and decides to make a spirit image with the daughter's photo embedded in it. This is truly a ghost story, as Horace's photographs begin to bring the dead daughter back to life. There is also a budding friendship between the only two people who really know what is going on - Horace, who is white, and Pegg, the servant, who is black. Their friendship eventually turns into something more, although that it is only at the end of the novel. This is historical fiction, as it describes 19th century New York. However, even with the explanation that Pegg was raised by free blacks, and Horace raised in a "rational" family, I still think it is unrealistic for Horace and Pegg to end up married just after the Civil War. There is also very little explanation of white/black relations at this time. This is a scary story, as Pegg and Horace fight against the ghost of Eleanora, and I think that's where the emphasis is - the historical part of it is mainly background. I never have been a huge Avi fan, or a huge historical fiction fan, so I just think it's sort of okay.
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LibraryThing member zenobia158
Likable characters, but a slow developing story and flimsy character logic mar the storytelling. Interesting enough to read, and finish (especially because the page count is just over 200), but not worthy of the Mark Twain award.
LibraryThing member crystalmorris
Great historical mystery. May be a little scary for a 4th or 5th grader due to the concepts of death and ghosts. Would have to gauge the individual child to determine readiness.
LibraryThing member Finleyup1
A great ending can save a bad book. An average to good ending cannot. That is what you get in The Seer of Shadows. The ending was decent, not great, and simply wasn't enough to make up for the rest of the book. The writing was repetitive and tiresome. I would pass on this one. There are too many
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other good books out there to spend your time reading.
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LibraryThing member skstiles612
Product Description
Horace Carpetine does not believe in ghosts.
Raised to believe in science and reason, Horace Carpetine passes off spirits as superstition. Then he becomes an apprentice photographer and discovers an eerie—and even dangerous—supernatural power in his very own photographs.
When a
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wealthy lady orders a portrait to place by her daughter's gravesite, Horace's employer, Enoch Middleditch, schemes to sell her more pictures—by convincing her that her daughter's ghost has appeared in the ones he's already taken.
It's Horace's job to create images of the girl. Yet Horace somehow captures the girl's spirit along with her likeness. And when the spirit escapes the photographs, Horace discovers he's released a ghost bent on a deadly revenge. . . .
I can think of at least 5 students who would absolutely love this book. Anyone who love ghost stories will love this one. I loved the idea that the adults in the story were responsible for the problems and it was the teens in the story who suffered the consequences of the adult’s decisions and it was also the teens who had to solve it. The suspense began on page one and continue to the last page. Once again Avi has created a masterpiece.
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LibraryThing member beckylynn
Good ol' ghost story. Students will enjoy this just because there's an element of eeriness in it. Avi did a wonderful job with the characters and the story line. This was my first Twain read aloud for the 10-11 school year and I thought this would win, until I read Kehret's Stolen Children. My
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students really seem to enjoy this book.
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LibraryThing member Librarylili
I pick up THE SEER OF SHADOWS because Halloween is just around the corner. But after reading the book, I find it is really a good one to recommend. Set in New York in 1872, a young boy called Horace Carpetine is serving as a photographer Enoch Middleditch’s apprentice. A rich woman Mrs. Von Macht
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in mourning arrives at the studio to request a portrait of herself to place on her dead 13-year-old-daughter Eleanora's grave. Middleditch is excited to make money through the clever deception of Mrs. Von Macht and plans to superimpose a photo of Eleanora onto the portrait of Mrs. Von Macht, thereby startling her into an emotional buying spree for more photos.

But the photos have called forth more than memory; they have actually called forth the ghost of Eleanora, who is set on deathly revenge. With the help of Pegg, the Von Macht's servant girl, Horace learns the truth that Eleanora, the dead girl, died due to neglect. Eleanora was the woman's niece, and she was heir to a huge fortune when her parents died at age 11, which was why her adoptive parents neglected her - to inherit her money. Meanwhile, Horace also realizes his supernatural abilities to help unleash the angry ghost.

The novel is a richly detailed page-tuner, filled with elegant language. The strong themes of equality, friendship, and fairness are built around a well-developed plot. The youthful characters of Pegg and Horace are unique and believable. Both of them are bold and kind. The time and place feel real. Creepy atmosphere and fast pacing of the story are easy to grab readers’ attention. The historical details are so well researched and the process of early photography is so lovingly detailed. Suspense goes through the whole story. I felt myself going back and forth with the plot trying to guess what was going to happen next. Although the story is for young readers, I still enjoy it very much.
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LibraryThing member anniecase
Another classic from Avi in the tradition of Charlotte Doyle. The creepiness pervades the atmosphere and continually drives towards its satisfying conclusion. A truly enjoyable read for children and a great history lesson to top it off!
LibraryThing member Golijanin
The story is set in 19th century New York. The fourteen year old Horace Carpentine is a quick learner, initiated into science by his father, who also finds a photographer willing to take Horace as a helper. At the time a photographer needed to posses the knowledge of mechanics, physics, and
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chemistry. Mr. Middleditch, a “society” photographer is lazy by nature but still a good teacher to Horace who moved to live with him.
Everything started one day when a wealthy customer, Mrs. Von Macht and her servant girl walked into their shop. She requested photographs of a portrait and offered them to set up a temporary studio in her house. Mrs. Von Macht says that she would like to put the picture on her daughter’s grave. The servant girl gives Horace signs that she disagree with Mrs. Von Macht’s story.
Pagg, the servant girl becomes close friends with Horace helping him discover the truth about Eleaonora’s cruel destiny and his unusual gift. His photographs capture the pictures of ghosts and bring them back into the world.
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LibraryThing member ohioyalibrarian
This is a haunting tale about a boy who discovers that he can bring ghosts out in the open by photographing them. One particular ghost that he photographs has plans for deadly revenge. Can he undo what he's done before it's too late? This is an excellent book, but a word of caution pertains...the
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ghost is quite scary and reeks of evil.
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LibraryThing member scote23
MSBA Nominee 2009-2010

Creepy book! One of the few Avi books that I like.
LibraryThing member Whisper1
This is the first book I've read by this newbery award winning author.

Part ghost story, part mystery blended with the historical back drop of New York City in 1872, I liked this book. This was the time of the Astors and the Van der bilts who built opulent mansions on Fifth Avenue.

Told from the
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perspective of Horace Carpetine, an appretice to a sketchy photographer, the reader is transported to the NYC of long ago.

When a wealthy woman commissions Horace's boss to photograph that can be placed on the gravestone of her daughter who passed away, Horace learns through the non-paid black maid that Mrs. Frederick Von Macht and her husband abused their "daughter " who actually was their neice and were the cause of her death in order to gain her fortune.

What became a prank and ploy set in motion by the unethical photographer, soon gains momentum and becomes out of control.

Horace learns that he is a seer and while his photography skills as not as advanced as his boss, when he develops the photo, he sees the ghost of the young girl abused by Mrs. Von Macht.

Peg, The maid bonds with Horace and tells the truth regarding the terrible behaviour of the Von Machts.

This is a time of distinct heirachtical strata when the rich are deemed untouchable and those beneath them are at the mercy of a society that deems them unworthy and unbelieable. Through Horace and Peg the sad tale is unraveled .
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LibraryThing member thioviolight
I found this a good, quick-paced ghost story for young adults. Worth checking out.
LibraryThing member crochetbunnii
The Seer of Shadows was an interesting read about Horace Carpetine, a photographer's apprentice in the 1870s. Horace was raised to believe in science and reason, but when his master decides he can make a quick buck off exploiting a rich woman into thinking her daughter's ghost is appearing in
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photographs, it's left to Horace to create the fake images. Unfortunately for Horace, he's a seer of shadows and unwittingly captures the daughter's spirit, releasing her to exact revenge on her murderers.

This was an interesting read, full of description of early photography processes. The end did get a little intense, but overall, a great read.
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LibraryThing member shelf-employed
The prolific Avi has a winner in Seer of Shadows, historical fiction with a decidedly eerie and menacing twist. Horace Carpetine, raised to believe in science and rationalism, has been apprenticed to a photographer in post-Civil War, New York City. When his unscrupulous employer decides to
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perpetrate a hoax on a grieving mother, a tangled tale of death, deception, abuse and the supernatural "develops," literally, on the glass plates of the photographer's camera.

Horace befriends Pegg, a black servant girl from the deceased's household, and together they confront the inconceivable. The Seer of Shadows is a gripping tale with a strong historical base and the supernatural eeriness of Gaiman's Coraline.
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Original language


Original publication date


Physical description

202 p.; 7.62 inches


0060000171 / 9780060000172
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