Ghosts and Gadgets (Raven Mysteries) by Marcus Sedgwick

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Ghosts and Gadgets (Raven Mysteries) by Marcus Sedgwick

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Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: Stefan Bachmann
Reviewed by Stefan Bachmann
Summary: The second book in Marcus Sedgwick's series for younger readers is a bit derivative, but delivers enough humour and quirky characters to satisfy just about everyone under twelve.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 272 Date: October 2009
Publisher: Orion Children's Books
ISBN: 978-1842556948

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Edgar, raven and self-appointed guardian of Otherhand Castle, has reason to be worried. The second-eldest of the Otherhand offspring, Cudweed, ran into something in the forbidden south wing of the castle and was in shock for days. Upon recovery, he reports the culprit was a ghost. When more victims begin popping-up - maids, stable-boys and shoe-polishers, all quite literally scared-to-death – Edgar takes it upon himself to save the day.

After reading the first few chapters of Ghosts and Gadgets, I made up my mind I didn't like it. It wasn't original, it wasn't scary, Otherhand Castle was hokey and half its inhabitants seemed taken directly from The Addams Family...

I'm happy to say I changed my mind after a few more chapters. Apart from some foreshadowing that will be glaringly obvious to anyone who's ever watched Scooby-doo, the book turned out to be perfectly solid fun. In fact, I'm beginning to think the only reason I didn't like it at first is that I haven't read the first book in the series and thus didn't have the foundation needed to be instantly absorbed into the goings-ons...

For while Ghosts and Gadgets isn't particularly original, it still offers some funny ideas: the whole concept of having the book narrated by a vain and pompous raven, for instance, or a detecting machine that finds the opposite of everything it's told to detect. (In case anyone was wondering, the opposite of shrieking maids is watercress). Also, while Otherhand Castle is hokey (deliberately) and its inhabitants are uncannily similar to many other dwellers-of-haunted-houses, it all works out rather well, and I ended the book liking many of the characters, especially Edgar and the timid Cudweed.

Gadgets is a nicely-produced book as well, with fancy fonts whenever Edgar exclaims something in raven-speak, and a frieze sporting anecdotes from the Family Otherhand's everyday-life at the beginning of every chapter. Pete Williamson's illustrations complement everything perfectly. His goggle-eyed characters reminded me favourably of those from Tim Burton's The Corpse Bride movie, and especially his pictures of Edgar, posing 'invisibly' atop a marble bust, or flying to the rescue, are priceless.

So while nothing new, Gadgets is still a fun read, with enough humour and wacky characters to entertain anyone under twelve. Fans of Marcus Sedgwick's older titles will probably be underwhelmed, though, as it doesn't come near the creepiness and clever plotting of his YA books.

I'd like to thank Orion Publishing for sending a copy to The Bookbag. We also have a review of The Raven Mysteries: Diamonds and Doom by Marcus Sedgwick.

For more books of this sort, try Angie Sage's [[Ghostsitters by Angie Sage|Ghostsitters}}. It's often hilariously funny. More of a girl-book, though. Boys will prefer The Doppelganger Chronicles: The First Escape by G P Taylor, an action-packed mixed-media offering that's not as funny but quite as silly. Or if you're looking for something seriously scary, read one of Chris Priestley's Tales of Terror. I loved the first two, and Bookbag loved the third and newest (which I haven't read yet but am positively dying to), so have at 'em!

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