Something happened to these delightful Jackaby novels,
and I’m not quite sure what. The first two books were fun and charming. Ghostly Echoes, though…I struggled to
immerse myself in it. It started off promising enough, but then characters
appear simply to voice author messages and political/social stances, and the
pleasant supernatural mysteries explode into a malevolent evil plot, complete
with a trip to the Underworld.
I think what I liked about the first two Jackaby books
was that they were urban fantasy/supernatural lite. There were supernatural
elements, sure, but those were intertwined with “normal” 1800s life. Yet this
book suddenly decides to introduce immense supernatural content (such as the
aforementioned Underworld, and a sinister Dire Council) with the mystery taking
Perhaps this is simply my dislike of supernatural books talking, much like how I struggle to enjoy science fiction. I also started disliking Stiefvater’s The Raven Boys when she started ramping up the supernatural. Or perhaps it’s my dislike of authors using characters merely as mouthpieces, which is what happens in this book with the character of Lydia Lee, who serves absolutely no purpose beyond plot convenience and soapboxing. Make those characters more interesting!
Whatever it is, my enthusiasm for Jackaby has dimmed
so much that I wonder whether I’ll even read the last book. To be honest, I
have no desire to find out what happens next. That disappeared when Abigail
took a trip to visit the dead.
Beastly Bones continues the oddball, eclectic fun that I loved so much about the first novel. Central to that fun is, of course, Jackaby, who’s basically a nicer Sherlock Holmes (at least in the Sherlock iteration), but various side characters also contribute. Abigail Rook, though portrayed as the serious, “let’s bring this back down to earth” type of partner, also has her moments, especially in her awkward moments with Charlie Barker.
This book has a much better mystery than Jackaby did, though once the revelation came, I realized that I probably should have figured it out sooner. I didn’t, though, so I was delightfully surprised. And I liked the introduction of a Shadowy Figure, as it gives a united goal and an arc for the books, though I honestly wouldn’t mind if each book was separate and only united in characters and other minor details (like Jenny’s backstory).
These books have been really fun so far, and I’m hoping the quality of mystery improves without ruining the fun of the characters and the quirky nature in general. I like mysteries just a little more detailed and involved, but that might mean not having as much fun in general. And these books were clearly written to be fun.
Also, the covers of these books! To be honest, if it was just the silhouette and the title, it would be perfection. The picture in the middle kind of ruins it a little, but they’re still very pretty. I don’t gush about pretty cover art enough, in my opinion.
Jackaby was all over Goodreads the year it was published, and I noticed it at the time, but didn’t really put much stock into it (most books that are popular on Goodreads don’t reflect my tastes). But even back then, the cover and title font intrigued me, so when I saw it on the library shelf, I thought, “Why not?”
The blurb for this book says it’s a “Doctor Who meets Sherlock Holmes” story, but to be honest, it reminded me a lot more of Jonathan Stroud’s Lockwood & Co. series. Jackaby is a more eccentric Lockwood, while Abigail is a less adventurous, more normal Lucy. The tone of the book and the characters are great: quirky, fun, interesting. I’m not a big fan of fairy elements, but the inclusion in this book was smooth and I didn’t mind it so much.
I loved the characters and the atmosphere, but the mystery itself was simply all right. It was fairly simple, with most of the attention focused on building up the world rather than the mystery itself. The red herrings Ritter threw in were so obviously red herrings that there was no shock or tension in the unraveling of the plot. And, though the book is decently long, it feels quite short, mainly because the majority of it does deal with establishing characters and not so much on action. And for a first book, that’s okay—it’s important to do that. I was just hoping for something with a bit more punch and intrigue that would really make me want to go out and get the next book.
I think I liked Jackaby just enough for me to get the next book in the series, but if the mysteries remain as tepid and obvious as in this first book, I might have to call it quits. Or maybe the delightful characters will keep me reading—we’ll see!