Author: William Ritter
Genre: YA, Fantasy, Mystery, Historical fiction
Series: Jackaby (#1)
Newly arrived in New Fiddleham, New England, 1892, and in need of a job, Abigail Rook meets R. F. Jackaby, an investigator of the unexplained with a keen eye for the extraordinary–including the ability to see supernatural beings. Abigail has a gift for noticing ordinary but important details, which makes her perfect for the position of Jackaby’s assistant. On her first day, Abigail finds herself in the midst of a thrilling…
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My Review: Warning – Rave ahead
I absolutely LOVED this book! It was full of spirit, personality, fun and witty banter, as well as mystery and creatures of lore. I’m at a loss as to where to begin: the amazing characters, fantastic plot or the downright brilliant writing.
The book opens with the story of a young girl named Abigail Rook, worn from traveling across the sea and broke, exploring the streets of New England in 1892 and looking for a place to stay. After stumbling into a small, quaint tavern she meets the infamous R.F. Jackaby – well I say meets, but the actual event is rather peculiar. The following day, their paths cross again when Ms. Rook, seeking employment, comes across an ad requesting an assistant to none other than the strange Mr. Jackaby. Thus the story takes off and the adventure begins.
This novel is often compared as an intertwining of Sherlock and Dr. Who, a brilliant hook for fans of both shows. Though I observed elements of both, I slightly disagreed with this description; it is reminiscent of Sherlock, especially the means by which Jackaby and Abigail Rook become acquainted, and the fact that Jackaby is an unofficial detective (albeit of the supernatural). However, I only felt a bit of Dr. Who through the personalities and actions of the characters, some of which are supernatural. I would better describe the novel as Sherlock meets the world Hans Christian Andersen – a detective in a deliciously wonderful world full of magic, a friendly ghost, a tiny troll and an assistant duck – but also a growing sense of darkness as our two protagonists chase after a rather brutal serial killer that is anything but human.
There were many things I loved about this book, but what hooked me was Ritter’s writing style. It was powerful, yet eloquent. It was engaging and vivid, while still retaining whimsical charm. He was able to transport me to the heart of New England and Jackaby’s house through Abigail’s eyes. I felt I could practically hear the rain and feel the biting cold. My heart raced and stomach churned throughout our first voyage to the crime scene. His writing left me in awe; it felt like two opposing forces brought together practically by magic. That wasn’t the only element of the book that made me feel this way.
The characters were complex, but relatable and absolutely fascinating! In each character was a sea of conflict, but it just worked. Take Abigail Rook – raised as an English noblewoman, refined and educated, but with a thirst for unrefined adventure, which is how she stumbled her way into little old New Fiddleham, without coin or lodging. Then we meet Jackaby – eccentric, seemingly slap dash, messy and socially incompetent. He acts like he could care less what others think of him, but as you get to know him, you learn he is caring and compassionate, especially to the supernatural and the outcasts of society. There are many other characters who have the same push and pull qualities. I fell in love with all of them.
This book was written for a young adults, and is in no way a complicated read. That didn’t mean I enjoyed it any less. It was a perfect book to read before bed, with a cup of chamomile tea (or whatever you prefer). The plot was straightforward and easy to follow, the dialogue witty and delightful, and the characters diverse personalities made them unique and relatable at the same time. It was reminiscent of different styles and stories but this combination with Ritter’s own twists made it an original. I would highly recommend anyone who is a fan of mysteries and fantasy to check it out! To anyone who has already read it, I’d love to hear your thoughts!