The Shibboleth

February 20, 2018 at 6:00 pm (Reads) (, , , )

shibbolethThe Shibboleth by John Hornor Jacobs


A shibboleth is, according to Wikipedia, any custom or tradition that distinguishes one group of people from others. In the case of Shreve and Jack, our main characters for this sequel to The Twelve-Fingered Boy, this is the power they have. These powers are important to a group called the Society of Extranaturals, which is the group for which Quincrux, the antagonist from the first book, is trying to recruit the two boys.

Jacobs takes a risk with this novel, separating both Shreve and Jack at the start of the book. It was their relationship that carried the story, and the first half of the novel is just about Shreve. Luckily, Jacobs still uses that relationship to define Shreve’s state of mind, even though he’s not present; in fact, it’s his absence that drives Shreve’s character. Eventually, the two characters reunite, but this series continues to be a coming-of-age story, and one of the risks of growing up through the teen years is friends growing apart.

The story will likely remind most readers of X-Men, and fans of Stephen King will see some influence from The Shop, the secret agency that recurs throughout his middle-era books. Like The Twelve-Fingered Boy, though, the book does its own thing with borrowed themes, and stands on its own well enough. It’s much darker than either influence (yes, some parts are even darker than Firestarter), and Shreve’s voice stands out to make the book unique.

Since this is the middle book of a trilogy, it ends at the darkest moment for the main characters, leading us to the final showdown in the third book. Jacobs sets up the events well for the conclusion, even going so far as to play with our expectations for how it will develop. Following the tone he’s created with the first two books, the third should be just as impressive.

Started: December 4, 2017
Finished: December 8, 2017

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