The Name of the Star

Image via Goodreads

The Name of the Star
Shades of London:  Book 1
Maureen Johnson

I could say all of the usual things about this book, but for some reason, I just can’t bring myself to because this is not your average tale of a youth rising above their circumstances. I mean, yeah, that is the basic theme, but Johnson’s tale is so much more than a simple coming of age story.  She crafted your average character, just a teenage girl, Aurora, who’s studying in London for a year with all the problems associated with that:  boys, school, slang, friends, etc, etc, etc.  She crafted this completely normal character and then made her extraordinary.  This character reminded me of Buffy, but without a lot of the initial whinging you get with her.  She really didn’t have any time at all to complain about her new found abilities what with the serial killer slowly cutting his way through London á la Jack the Ripper.  This story is addictingly enthralling.  The sense of immediacy and tension will hold your eyes to the page until you turn the final one.

The Plot:

On the day Rory arrives in London to begin her stay at Wexford, a boarding school in the heart of Whitechapel, the city is shocked into panic at the discovery of a murder.  This isn’t your average murder of passion. No, this is a murder that almost exactly replicates the first victim of Jack the Ripper.  In the midst of this citywide panic, Rory finds that she has an ability and she can’t tell anyone about it.

There are two things I absolutely love about this story.  The first is the seeding.  Johnson seeds the story with little glimmers of foreshadowing that allow you to see a tiny bit of what’s coming without giving away the whole show.  It’s perfectly done.  It’s impossible to not feel a little bit like Sherlock Holmes when you read this book.  I’m pretty sure that has nothing with the way I read the book and everything to do with the way Johnson wrote it. It’s brilliant.

The second thing I love and I’ll admit that I rarely talk about this, is the cover art.  It’s enticingly creepy.  I’m not sure that it’s possible to see the cover and not immediately open the book.  Who’s the creepy guy in the old fashioned clothes and why is he lurking over the innocent girl on the ground?  Throw in the fact that you know the story is about a Jack the Ripper copy cat and boom, the reading commences.

The story is really quite artfully crafted.  Johnson does a superbly subtle job of tying the mundane daily life of boarding school with the terrifying gore of the murders with the ethereal solidity of the supernatural.  She does this while delivering a tale packed so full of action, you could almost mistake it for a Bourne story.  Johnson breathes life into the tale and somehow makes London into a person rather than a thing.  Her characters are fully formed and powerful without smacking of stereotype or tripe.  In short, this story is spellbinding.

4 ink bottles.

Book Links:  GoodreadsPublisher

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