The Black Dragon (Mysterium) by Julian Sedgwick

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The Black Dragon (Mysterium) by Julian Sedgwick

Category: Teens
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: A fine debut, opening a trilogy of a boy who's definitely up against it, trying to piece together modern Hong Kong criminal gangs with his family's circus and how it ended.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 352 Date: July 2013
Publisher: Hodder Children's Books
ISBN: 9781444913705

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Danny is a fish out of water at his public school. Half Chinese, he's still a newcomer after over a year, having grown up in a circus called The Mysterium. Those days behind him, he delights at the chance to go to Hong Kong with his guardian aunt Laura, even while she's there working as an undercover journalist, investigating nightmarish Triad gangs. Once in that exotic world it's a quandary to know just what side who is on, what with corrupt crops, people who are not as they appear and more – but what on earth is the connection between all this and the dark, disastrous ending the circus suffered?

To get the first issue out the way, yes, Julian Sedgwick is the brother of Marcus. But there the family resemblance seems to end, for this book is one very different to those the more experienced sibling has produced. It does certainly adopt Marcus' readability, but this is much more in the manner of a Josh Lacey or Pseudonymous Bosch adventure. The problems Danny has deciphering his vague memories of the end of the circus – a major stunt that went majorly wrong, and a fatal fire – are combined with much more imminent dramas, as he faces cleaver-wielding gangsters, mysterious strangers, ridiculous motorbike escapes and more.

All told there is a problem with the ridiculous you have to be in the target audience – 10 to 13 at a guess – to ignore, or avoid. There is no way anyone would drag Danny on such a trip, even with such a reliable friend as Zamora, the strongman of diminutive stature, at the other end – he as a character has a whole world to be in and it does not need to be there that he protects Danny, beyond the fact Laura is going there too and it's where Danny's mother left for Europe from. Similarly adults perusing this will scoff at something Danny gets through airport security, which is a shame as it's vital to the plot.

The plot is, regardless, great fun, playing greatly as it does with the intrigue of who means what, and where past and present collide. The surprises are stacking up throughout, albeit as far as the first book of a trilogy will allow them – at least this volume is blatant in its opening part status. Perhaps of greater note, however, is the style – both kinetic in portraying the drama and adventure, but poetic in its use of a more measured, evocative, lax-at-grammar manner. Paragraphs with no verbs. Immediacy of present-tense. Primacy and intimacy of Danny's interior thoughts. (See what I did there?)

What it all boils down to is a book that's clearly part of something much greater, and there's always a reluctance to over-rate a part one when other people have in the past slipped up with future volumes, or provided something that's so over-achieving no single volume's marks can encapsulate it. I'm certainly intrigued by all the secrets to come out in future volumes over the next twelve months, and definitely intend to be on board for the end. There certainly was something in the water in the Sedgwick household, for both to be this good…

I must thank the publishers for my review copy.

Ways To See a Ghost by Emily Diamand is another riveting read for this age bracket.

Buy The Black Dragon (Mysterium) by Julian Sedgwick at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Black Dragon (Mysterium) by Julian Sedgwick at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy The Black Dragon (Mysterium) by Julian Sedgwick at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Black Dragon (Mysterium) by Julian Sedgwick at Amazon.com.


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