|The Chamber of Shadows by Justin Richards|
|Category: Confident Readers|
|Reviewer: John Lloyd|
|Summary: A great list of gothic scenarios meshing into a very interesting book, which offers great action too - it's just a shame the meshing didn't fully work for me.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 432||Date: April 2010|
|Publisher: Faber Children's Books|
It's London, 1886. A company building those new underground train tunnels finds a hidden vault at impossible depth - and seems to release into the world The Lord of Flies. A mysterious masked stage magician does the obviously impossible. A robotic killer stalks the streets, and a street gang of ruffians-on-the-up decides to solve the mystery. A man in charge of Fortean artefacts at the British Museum has a new employer, asking something much more evil from him. Surely all of that cannot be connected in some way? Surely one book can not have all those dark and mysterious elements we can probably all recognise, and put them into one period thriller without coming over as a horrendous porridge of parody?
Thankfully, the answers are 'yes, they can', and 'yes, it can'. And I hold it in my hands, and look at it with some admiration.
Of course, all those turning to this book for the first time will be looking at it with eyes, eager to race across the page - every chapter has an enjoyable 'dur-dur-durrrr' ending, making us want to plough on. This is the third book in a series, but it's perfectly self-contained, and we get immediately through meeting Eddie the gang leader, his friend and father figure George Archer with his shadowy knowledge from his Museum career, and the other relevant characters.
However I had a fairly large obstacle to get over with this book - in that those 'dur-dur-durrrr's were so prominent, and often in the wrong place. Cliff-hangers - and there are many of those too - were relegated to the middle of the chapter, and several times the natural place to break off and have an overnight rest, before returning the protagonists to the plot, was hidden floating in a chunk of text.
To Justin Richard's merit there are multiple plot strands, as characters split up, get reunited, have different concerns and more to deal with, and he is juggling many balls at once. But while I so wanted to be overwhelmed with the flow of the plot, I was struggling to find this flow suiting my tastes.
There is a lot to the plot that is to my taste, and I relished the way things were drip-fed slowly - some of the storyline is evident from the start, some great deal more has to be found out, and we're never ahead of the heroes in working out what. There is one extended scene, however, where all I can say is that it's obvious what he's doing, in order to increase the intrigue, but the ultimate intrigue is a very enjoyable one, and to repeat, where many people would have taken those key ingredients to the plot and come up with a horrid jumble, Richards manages to combine everything in an eloquent way, and pour on the gothic elements to his story without over-reaching himself at all.
In a better light this would have possibly got an even greater mark from us at the Bookbag, but I saw enough greatness here to be frustrated by the way the chapters were giving us twists and cliff-hangers galore, but all on the wrong beats.
I must thank Faber's kind people for my review copy.
It's getting old now, but I cannot stop recommending Joe Rat by Mark Barratt, which ties in to this Chamber with characters, evocation of the gothic and more. Further dark mysteries can be found in the intriguing Candle Man: The Society of Unrelenting Vigilance by Glenn Dakin.
You can read more book reviews or buy The Chamber of Shadows by Justin Richards at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy The Chamber of Shadows by Justin Richards at Amazon.com.
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