Book Review – Ghostly Echoes by William Ritter

Hello again Blogland!

Yesterday ended up being very productive. I wrote the Interlude for From the Quorum from start to finish, wrapping it at 3,508 words. For the time I sat writing, that was extremely productive. This book is writing itself!

Beyond that, I also finished reading all the installments of Locke & Key, as well as Low, vol. 1. That’s all the graphic novels I had checked out, so I get to return a bunch of items to the library today and move on to reading Arcanum Unbounded, which I’ve put off for far too long.

But, before I get too wrapped up in that, let’s talk about Ghostly Echoes. Beware the spoilers!ghostly-echoes

This was the largest of the three Jackaby books so far. The other two were under 300 pages, but this one had 352. And that’s because there’s a lot happening.

The book opens with Jenny and Abigail experimenting with possession. Yep. You read that right. Now, most of us sane folk would say, “that’s a terrible idea.” And it is. But, Abigail adores Jenny and wants to help her anyway she can. Even if that means subjecting herself to the disorienting and painful process of letting her friend take over her body.

But, the catch is, that when Jenny is in Abigail’s body, Abigail has access to Jenny’s memories. That’s really useful since Jenny can’t actually remember the circumstances of her death.

That’s the case they’re working on, by the way. Jenny’s murder.

Well, as they investigate they learn that Jenny’s murder is tied into the string of murders from the last book, and it’s all one big case. Add in some political ties, and this book gets interesting fast!

Charlie arrives out of concern for Abigail’s safety as she tackles this enormous case with Jackaby, much to her delight. I was a little bummed because he’s not very critical to the story. I mean, he plays an important role, but he doesn’t get as much screen time as I’d like.

So, all kinds of crazy things happen in this book. Possession, Abigail throws a brick in a vampire’s face, forcefully pushing him from their home, they cross into the Anwynn, a place between life and death, and Abigail is the one chosen to cross the river Styx to try and find a particular spirit that could help them solve the case.

jackaby-with-quote
Except, she doesn’t find who she expects, but Jenny’s fiancé.

Yeah, this book is all over the place. But, when you’re reading it everything makes sense. It’s only in this summation that I see how wild some of these events are, but I ain’t even mad. This book was fast-paced fun!

Anyway, they learn that a group known as The Dire Council is behind all these deaths, and that they’re trying to create some sort of enormous scientific device, that has something to do with energies. And while Jackaby and Co., catch the main murderer, a henchman for the Council, they are no closer to actually thwarting their dastardly plan.

And that’s where the book leaves off. The next (and final) book is titled The Dire King, and I am ready for it now! I don’t want to wait until August!

Now, my favorite aspects of this book are Abigail’s newfound confidence. She loves these people she’s met and built a new life with, and she feels empowered by them to do anything for them. It’s a good look on her.

I also really loved the tender moments where Jackaby opens up about himself. There’s a lot of Jackaby’s history in this book, because The Dire Council needs him to complete their device. And so the history of how he acquired the Sight and how he coped with that gets fleshed out a bit. I loved it! He’s also more vulnerable in this book than in the others, because of his concern for Jenny. He’s hesitant to solve her case because he doesn’t want her business to be finished. He doesn’t want her to leave.

douglas-and-jenny
Two of Jackaby’s companions

It’s not like Jackaby has a lot of friends.

There was a moment in the book that, while not critical to the plot, was really powerful for me. Early in the novel Abigail and Jackaby come across a transgender woman being attacked. They stave off her attackers and get her home, Jackaby never faltering in calling her ‘her’ and treating her with respect. Abigail does her best, but she’s a little bewildered by the encounter.

When she asks Jackaby if Miss Lee was, in fact, a man, Jackaby’s response is perfect.

“‘Underneath she was herself- as are we all. Lydia Lee is as much a lady as you or Jenny or anyone. I imagine a midwife or attending doctor probably had another opinion on the matter, but it only goes to show what doctors really know’

‘Shouldn’t a doctor be able to tell at least that much?’

Jackaby’s expression clouded darkly. ‘I have great respect for the medical profession, Miss Rook,’ he said soberly, ‘but it is not for doctors to tell us who we are.'”

It struck me as immensely profound, coming from this man who most doctors would label insane. And a true representation of his character that he would stand up for Lydia Lee and defend her in a manner less defensive and more educational, even to Abigail.

I love this eccentric, fictional man. A shame I have to wait all summer to see what happens…

You probably won’t hear from me again this weekend, but I’ll see you all on Monday!

 

BZ

Book Review – Beastly Bones by William Ritter

Hello, Blogland.

I’ve been a busy little reader these last few days, and have completed both Jackaby novels, as well as a few installments of Locke & Key. Pop over to the “What I’m Reading” page to get a full update.

Today we’re here to discuss the second novel in the Jackaby series, Beastly Bones. If you’ve not read my review of Jackaby, now would be the time.

beastly-bonesIn this installment, Abigail and Jackaby find themselves on a case in Gad’s Valley, which is lovely since that’s where Charlie Barker, formerly Charlie Cane, now resides. There’s been a string of murders, seemingly unrelated save for a peculiar wound to the neck: a single puncture surrounded by bruising.

Along the way they catch up with an old friend of Jackaby’s, Hank Hudson. He’s a hunter and trapper, with a focus on unusual creatures. He’s also huge. I pictured him like a frontiersman Hagrid, but less approachable.

On this adventure, Abigail is torn. The official reason they’re sent to Gad’s Valley is to track down a stolen fossil, and her paleontology roots call to her. It was really great to see Abigail in her element, and she had several occasions to one up the male experts who were quick to disregard her. Jackaby was proud of her, but her interest and aptitude meant that he spent a bit of his time on his own, hunting the unseen forces behind the theft.

being-clever
I’m still waiting for a moment like this…

As the story goes on, things remain relatively light. The two paleontologists bicker and argue over all sorts of minutia, there’s a femme fatale reporter who befriends Abigail, and Abigail has a few delightfully awkward encounters with Charlie, who is even more endearing in this book.

 

But, when it appears that an actual dragon, thought extinct for a few thousand years, is terrorizing the valley, things get dark quick. Houses are razed, a nearby couple are killed, and in the final battle the reporter, Nellie Fuller, sacrifices herself to give Jackaby and Abigail time to figure something out.

And, Abigail does. That was my favorite part of this story. Abigail saves the day, and Jackaby’s life. She’s the hero, finally the strong female character, even if she refuses to see herself that way. But, as they say, the proof is in the pudding. Abigail even kisses Charlie by the very end! Very bold indeed.

But, the events of Gad’s Valley also trouble her immensely, giving Jackaby the opportunity to wax philosophical, as he often does, and it’s always a treat. But, the events also set the stage for the next book, and help establish a larger arc for the series.

I would say that this book is very much Abigail’s. Though she’s the main character of the series, the first book had to introduce us to Jackaby and his unique place and function in the world. Now, with all that established, Abigail had the opportunity to really grow and shine.

Ritter did a good job of making his likeable narrator even more so, and keeping things fun while he did.

william-ritter
William Ritter

That would be my number one selling point of these books. They’re fun. The characters are endearing and well-developed, and the city of New Fiddleham feels like home. I want to spend time in this world, with these people. I’m happy to report that the third book is probably the best of them all, and the next book is due out this summer!

There’s no shortage of time with Abigail and Co., just yet.

Unrelated to the actual plot or books, I found out that William Ritter is a local author. He lives in Springfield, Oregon, about an hour south of Salem, near Eugene. He’s an educator, and I look forward to catching him during his promotion of the next book, The Dire King.

Aaaand, I just read that it’s the conclusion of the series. I am not OK with that. Not in the least. How can that be the end? There’s too many possibilities! You can’t just wrapghostly-echoes everything up in one book, right?

Now I’m sad. Damn it. Well, I’ll see you all tomorrow when I return with the book review for Ghostly Echoes.

Until then, Blogland…

 

BZ

Book Review – Jackaby by William Ritter

Welcome, Blogland, to late 19th Century America. Here, women are expected to dress and behave like a lady, and if they’ve got any class, they definitely don’t work, but stay at home and dote on their husbands.

Less a reflection on America specifically, and more the general tone of the era. At least in Ritter’s fictional New England town of New Fiddleham. Which is a great name for a town. Very fun to say, especially if you do so with a posh British accent. jackaby

Anyway, this is the town the narrator/protagonist Abigail Rook finds herself in at the opening of the book. She’s more or less run away from home, in rural England, since she stole her University tuition money to see the world. Young Abigail, in her late teens, potentially early twenties, has had a busy year or two avoiding her parents’ ire. Time spent in Eastern Europe on an archeological dig, where she quickly learned that digging up dinosaurs was far less interesting than her father had made it seem.

From there, she went to Germany, and thanks to a giant miscommunication, her passage back to the UK became a voyage across the Atlantic. When she docks in New Fiddleham she knows no one and has just enough coin to rent a room for the evening. All her best dresses need laundering, which she can’t afford, and a girl has got to eat.

Basically, the girl needs to find a job, stat.

The next day, a day she intended to spend applying to local shops, turned into a whirlwind supernatural adventure and even landed her a job!

Enter R.F. Jackaby, New Fiddleham’s only paranormal private detective. He’s viewed less than favorably by the town’s “normals” and just being in his presence earns Abigail many disapproving looks. But, I love him! He’s part Sherlock Holmes, part Newt Scamander (I admit I pictured Eddie Redmayne the entire novel), and just a tiny hint of Buffy Summers. And one hundred percent a goober.

eleven-perfect-sense
Perhaps I should have pictured Matt Smith instead…

He’s distracted, brilliant, and completely lacking in social skills. His unbeknownst awkwardness made him immediately likeable, and irritating at times. But, this is exactly what Abigail has been searching for. Not necessarily the paranormal; she thinks Jackaby is more than a little unstable in that regard, but adventure! Intrigue! Puzzles that require solving!

Over an intense few days, Jackaby and his new Investigative Assistant solve a string of murders and both almost die a few times. It’s incredibly fun, and though a bit predictable, it is a YA novel.

That’s not meant to be a ding on YA, just an admission that books written for a younger audience are often a little less complex than those for an adult audience.

That being said, I was glad that the events I predicted came true. It was exactly what I wanted for the story and its characters. Well, almost. I still feel bad for Charlie Cane, but we’ll see how he fairs in the next couple books.

And that’s exciting too! More books! By the end of the book, I wasn’t ready to say goodbye to Abigail, Jackaby, and their strange little world within New Fiddleham. And now I don’t have to! The next two books are already added to my pile, waiting patiently in queue behind the next four books.

If I can be that patient. We’ll see if things stay in their current projected order.

Beyond the actual plot of this book, I think it has a bit to recommend it. An interesting and growing female lead. I wouldn’t necessarily call her “strong”, but she’s working on it. An extremely intriguing and funny Jackaby, and a complex world within our accepted normal. The world building is quick, but well done because it’s anchored in what we already know and understand.

And ultimately, I just had a really great time reading this book. And that’s something I want more of in my reading list. FUN! Jackaby delivered, and I hope the sequels will as well.

I’m hoping to finish The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps tomorrow. We have DnD tonight and tomorrow night, so I’m not sure if another book review will happen this week, and the writing has been a bit thin as well. So, not off to a great start for this week, but I’m not giving up!

Until then Blogland,

 

BZ