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Book Review: Jackaby

Title: Jackaby
Author: William Ritter
Genre: Mystery; Fantasy
Rating: 3 out of 5
Reviewer: Julia

Jackaby. By the name of the book, you might think that the main character would be the man named Jackaby. And, since I had not actually read the back cover enough to remember it (I got this book in a date with a blind book, mind you), I was pleasantly surprised to find, in the last sentence of the fourth paragraph, that my narrator was a young woman named Abigail Rook. A feminist, to add, even though she’s living in 19th Century America. The story follows her as she, a lost girl on the unfamiliar territory of New Fiddleham, searches for a place to stay and a job that’ll pay for her expenses. As it turns out, she meets the town’s controversial “detective” R. F. Jackaby and gets a job as his assistant. But Jackaby is no ordinary man, and sees supernatural things that others don’t see. As outrageous as it might seem to Abigail, she’ll have to get herself accustomed quickly, as her first case with Jackaby is no ordinary one: It’s murder, and more than one life is in danger.

Now, this might seem like a perfectly fine book to you or a good amount of other teens out there. And I’m sure that there probably are people out there who would enjoy this book a lot. Expect there’s two things that held me back from liking this book a lot: 1) I’m not too terribly fond of fantasy, and 2) I can be a bit picky.

Still, there were some things that I liked about it. While they are a bit (or even more than “a bit”) cliché and typically are written the same way, an eccentric character here and there is always interesting to read about. Therefore (small spoiler up ahead, folks), I did find the character of Jackaby to be interesting to read about. And there were a few other side female characters (who I won’t give more details about to avoid spoilers) that I did like a bit.

But that’s pretty much where my praise ends for the book. And even these characters were, in my opinion, “old”. By “old” I mean that their character type isn’t new. We’ve all seen characters like them. (Skip to the next paragraph if you want to avoid a slight spoiler, because I’m going to proceed to name their character types.) We’ve all seen the “crazy” old woman of the town who no one believes. We know the friendly character who’s there for moral support. (Actually, that one is rather vague. I guess what I mean is that her character really doesn’t have much more to it? Oh, forgive me: I’m so rude.)

I know that the mystery was supposed to be exciting and, well, an actual mystery, and maybe this is just me, but I didn’t find it to be all too amazing. I thought it was a bit… bland? Just… “eh”? Flat. I found it to be a tad flat. Now, this is going to offend two books at once, knock down two birds with one viciously thrown stone, but, in ways, it reminded me of Nancy Drew books.

If you read Nancy Drew books, you would know what I mean. They were always written to be exciting and thrilling. There were exclamations and supposedly “shocking” events would occur, but a combination of the writing style, predictability, and some unknown factor would always make the mysteries simply not too exciting at all. Not that I didn’t enjoy the Nancy Drew books. No, I actually liked them a lot. So I suppose what I mean is that Jackaby was a bit like reading Nancy Drew when you’re older. When I was reading a Nancy Drew book recently, I found that, while I enjoyed seeing all the old characters again, I had outgrown the series, and suddenly the predictability of the mysteries and the flawless nature of the young detective didn’t entertain me as it used to.

Because, in ways, that is what Jackaby was like to me. The mystery as well as the layout of the book was a bit predictable (although I did appreciate some unexpected details). (Small spoilers ahead! Jump to the asterisk to avoid it!) You knew that certain people would become friends and who was the likely candidate for the villain. And, like Nancy Drew, the characters didn’t have as much to them, if you know what I mean. They were less so people to me and more like characters, as in people who are just there to carry out the mystery of the book (which I have actually already admitted to not liking much).

Still, there are more books to the series. Thus, for all I know, it could be similar to the Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children trilogy by Ransom Riggs, in which I loved the second book because it gave more depth to the characters.

I also had some other, smaller issues with the book. The ending wasn’t the best in my opinion, although often in mystery books endings always seem too happy and uneventful in comparison to the rest of the book. (Another spoiler, sorry; skip to the next * to avoid it!) And then there’s the fact that all of this happened in two days! Two days? Are you kidding me?

* I’m sorry. I know, I know: I am terribly picky. But, while I did have these complaints about the book, I still gave it a score of a 3 out of 5 because I did appreciate the creative aspect that tends to come with fantasy books as well as the odd quote here and there. (Those are really helpful for bookstagram post captions!)

I don’t think that this means that the other two books are awful. No, sometimes I find that it’s the first book that’s the worst. But, then again, there’s also the chance that the next two won't live up to the first. Still, I will never know until I actually try to read them for myself, so I do think I’ll do that at some point. In other words, let me end my book review by saying this, and you can then make your own conclusions to see if you would like to read the book for yourself:

The book wasn’t interesting enough for me to read the next book right away, but not too horrible that I don’t read the next book at all.


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