The Madness Underneath
The first book in this series, The Name of the Star, was thisclose to being a DIK for me. It was a deeply atmospheric ghost tale with romance and ambiance. In this second installment of The Shades of London the atmosphere is just as intense, the story just as seductive.
A nearly fatal encounter with the Jack the Ripper copycat has changed Rory Devereaux’s life in two not-so-fabulous ways. First, she was forced to leave Wexford school in East London and rehabilitate (aka attend endless therapy sessions) at her parent’s home in Bristol. And second, she has been turned into a human terminus. Her touch now literally eliminates ghosts. Even if that touch is meant in kindness. Even if she is just accidentally brushing up against them. Being under near-house arrest hasn’t been fun either but it has given her time to come to terms a bit with her power. And at least she isn’t tripping over ghosts around every corner in Bristol like she was in London. Still, she needs information and is plotting on how to get it when something amazing happens – her therapist suddenly suggests she return to Wexford. Rory knows something must be up – there is no way she has made any progress in therapy since the Official Secrets Act has kept her from talking about what actually happened. But she still jumps at the chance to get back to London. The Shades – London’s secret ghost fighting police – are very possibly the only people she can talk to about what has actually happened to her. And really, if she’s a terminus she needs to be where the action is. Luck is with her – the Shades are just as anxious to reunite with Rory as she is to be with them. It seems the fateful night that turned Rory into a terminus also left her as the sole possessor of that power. A power that is vitally needed if the Shades are to have any control over London’s most dangerous poltergeists.
Returning is hard work for Rory. There is the confusing relationship with her boyfriend Jerome. There is the endless lying and secrecy to cover what she is doing (since you can hardly tell people you are hunting ghosts). She is hopelessly behind in her classes. And then she makes a discovery that could have sweeping repercussions for all of England.
I’ll just start by stating that these books have to be read in order. The author doesn’t really go back and do a recap of what happened in the first book but instead builds off of that. You have been warned. Added to the lack of information is the simple fact that this book feels very much like the second in the series. There is a lot of time spent in shuffling and redefining the relationships, determining just what and who should go where and trying to figure out how everything should fit together. This is a problem that bogs down many a second novel and this one is no exception. Where the first book felt fast-paced and edge-of-your-seat, this one feels less so. That sense of inevitable doom mixed with everything being done to fix it was lacking.
What remained great about the novel was our heroine Rory. She is a teen but a mature one, anxious to get out into the world and deal with things she is uniquely qualified to deal with. The sense of fun, romance and adventure that she brought to the novel remains intact and flows effortlessly throughout the story.
Also still really wonderful are the way the ghosts are depicted. We get all kinds – dangerous poltergeists, hard luck stories, annoying, pathetic ghosts and some that are peaceful or helpful. Much like real people they are varied and nuanced.
The setting adds a lovely chill to the book. London as described in these novels is in an almost perpetual twilight. The author does a great job of creating a drizzly, cold, foggy, dusky world in which you can easily picture ghosts roaming about the streets. It is the best sort of ghost tale– spooky and a touch frightening but not at all a story of ghastly horrors.
Because the plots of these books are also mysteries, I can’t discuss that much. I will say that early in the novel I thought the author presented an excellent mystery and then got distracted by a much less interesting one. The less interesting one also causes one big, major whopper of a change toward the very end that I am not sure how I feel about. I thought that the first mystery, which dealt with ghosts, really highlighted what Rory and the Shades excel at while keeping the funnily creepy, spooky atmosphere. The second mystery highlighted Rory’s naiveté, a bit of ineptitude on the Shade’s part and the general nastiness of humanity. Spending most of our time on the human mystery angle dragged down the story. Hopefully the next book will have Rory following up on the mystery of the ghosts.
If you enjoy a good, atmospheric ghost tale, definitely give this series a try. It is one of the best available, even if this book didn’t quite measure up toThe Name of the Star.