Archive for June, 2013

Sequels by Jeffrey Brown and Polly Shulman

Sequels by Jeffrey Brown and Polly Shulman.  This weekend I read the sequels to two of my favorite juvenile/teen books of the past couple of years, Jeffrey Brown’s Darth Vader and Son and Polly Shulman’s The Grimm Legacy.  Both of the new entries were as engaging as their predecessors and in some ways surpassed them.

First, in Vader’s little princess Brown returns readers to his alternative Star Wars universe where Vader, Dark Lord of the Sith, struggles as a single parent to his young twins, Luke and Leia.  Brown once again enhances his single-panel illustrations with classic dialogue from the movies, but with the unique twist of putting Vader into typical parenting situations (i.e. “And now, your highness, we will discuss the location of your hidden rebel base” becomes a search for a laundry basket in Leia’s messy room).  Unlike the first book, this volume covers a much broader time period from little Leia and Vader enjoying a tea party with a stuffed Ewok through the teenage dating years with all its hormonal drama.

Shulman’s second book in the New-York Circulating Material Repository series has a science fiction focus with the objects in the Wells Bequest special collection taking prominence after book one highlighted those featured in fairy tales.  Set approximately ten years after the first story ended, Jaya, younger sister to Grimm character, Anjali, is now head page at the magical Repository and romantically pursued by both Leo, an awkward boy from a family of Russian scientists and our novel’s narrator, and by Simon, a transfer page from the London branch library with an obsessive personality.  This teen love triangle threatens to result in the destruction of the entire city unless our heroes can find and use H.G. Wells’ time machine to save the day.  I was disappointed in the level of teen angst in the first story, but didn’t find it as intrusive in this tale.  Readers will learn lots of history in an entertaining way with this series, which could have several more volumes as there are two special collections (one of cyber stuff and one on gothic material) that have yet to be explored by Ms. Shulman and her band of librarians and pages at the New York Repository plus those in London and Paris.

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The Gilded Shroud by Elizabeth Bailey

The Gilded Shroud (A Lady Fan Mystery), by Elizabeth Bailey.  Initially, I thought this would be just another typical romantic historical mystery set among the English nobility, filled with fancy vocabulary, perfect manners and over-the-top sentimentality.  However, Ottilia’s biting wit separates this debut from many in this sub-sub-genre.  Both the unfolding mystery and romance were a bit too obvious, but overall it was good enough to warrant giving the sequel a shot.  The true test of these types of books comes once the sexual tension of the first book has been resolved (dissolved) with the inevitable marriage between the main characters.  Some authors, Tasha Alexander in particular, can sustain the momentum into a series, whereas others cannot.

As I suspected, Bailey’s second entry in this series (The Deathly Portent) was not as enjoyable as the first.  Once again, the mystery was too obvious.  Not only was I able to easily guess the murderer, but also exactly how Lady Fan would achieve success. There must be something that the author is doing to trigger my attention to the culprit, though I don’t know what it is.  This story lacked the tension of the first and its wit.  I am not sure a third volume is worth pursuing.


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