Shadows of the Silver Screen by Christopher Edge
|Shadows of the Silver Screen by Christopher Edge|
|Category: Confident Readers|
|Reviewer: Robin Stevens|
|Summary: A hilarious and fast-paced Victorian romp that will appeal to book-lovers and less confident readers alike.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 256||Date: January 2013|
|Publisher: Nosy Crow|
Kids these days have it pretty good. Not that my generation weren’t lucky – after all, we had first access to J K Rowling – but in 2013 there seems to be a greater choice of good books being published, for a wider range of abilities and interests, than my friends and I ever had access to.
Shadows of the Silver Screen is a case in point. It’s a book for all those children – like me – who will one day discover that they love Wilkie Collins and H G Wells. But I can see it working equally well for kids who are less confident and interested readers, who just want an exciting and simply-written story that leaps from plot point to plot point without pause for breath. Although Shadows of the Silver Screen is an excellent translation of the spirit of the late-Victorian popular novels that it’s drawing on, it doesn’t matter in the slightest whether a reader knows that or not. What matters is heroine Penny Tredwell and her mile-a-minute madcap world of intrigue and excitement, a cartoon-character universe where adventure is everywhere and danger is never far behind it.
This is the second in Christopher Edge’s series about amateur sleuth Penny, the twelve year old orphan who has a secret double life as the nation’s best-selling author of popular fiction. Think of her as a vertically challenged Arthur Conan Doyle in a petticoat. Her side-kick is an out-of-work actor she’s hired to be the public face of her pen-name ‘Montgomery Flinch’, and together they uncover dark deeds in turn-of-the-century London. The first book, Twelve Minutes to Midnight, was set on the eve of the twentieth century and saw Penny foiling a nefarious plot to rob the whole nation of their future – a plan that involved the Bedlam asylum, a mysterious cloaked lady and a lot of poisonous African spiders.
Now Penny’s returned in a story set around the beginnings of the moving picture business. When a mysterious impresario turns up asking to make Penny’s story ‘The Daughter of Darkness’ into a film, Penny is initially sceptical. It turns out, though, that Mr Gold is no ordinary director, and what he wants to create is no ordinary film. There’s something strange about the changes he’s made to ‘The Daughter of Darkness’, and something even stranger about his camera, the Veritescope. When Mr Gold tricks Monty into starring as the villain of the piece, Penny can’t resist coming along to watch them film on location in Devon. But she has no idea how real ‘The Daughter of Darkness’ is about to become…
The real strength of this series is its power to entertain. The plot of Shadows of the Silver Screen is light and slightly thin – a premise rather than an intricately worked-out machine – and its characters are pleasantly cartoony, more sets of characteristics than realistic people. But that’s all the story needs to send it driving along. This is tear-the-page-as-you-turn-it-over stuff; the kind of book that kids will devour and then ask for more.
Penny herself is a lively, aspirational heroine, the kind of smart, go-getting girl that my ten-year-old self would have spent hours earnestly praying to become more like. I was charmed by her, and I was charmed by this book. I love the period Edge has chosen, and found his tongue-in-cheek response to that period and its literature delightful. Crackling with electricity as it brings together cinema, pulp fiction and good old-fashioned ghost stories in age-appropriate repackaging, Shadows of the Silver Screen will be fun whether you can spot the allusions or not.
If you haven't already read it, Penny makes her first appearance in Twelve Minutes to Midnight.
You can read more book reviews or buy Shadows of the Silver Screen by Christopher Edge at Amazon.co.uk.
You can read more book reviews or buy Shadows of the Silver Screen by Christopher Edge at Amazon.com.
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