Titles: Jackaby (#1), Beastly Bones (#2), The Map (#1.5)
Author: William Ritter
Okay, where do I even start? I’m addicted? I think I did overhype it to myself, so I didn’t love it as much as I hoped I would? But I still enjoyed it a ton.
This is basically what would happen if a Sherlock Holmes type person could see supernatural/fantastical things and had a female assistant instead of Watson, and was in late 1800s America instead of England. I’ll admit that I’m addicted primarily because of Jackaby himself, since he’s the sort of character that I like to read, especially the bickerings between him and the heroine, Abigail, through whose eyes the story is told.
I’m also torn on the fact that Jackaby and Abigail aren’t a romantic item. There’s… ahem… someone else for Abigail. And while she and said person are admittedly adorable together, some little part of me still kind of almost wants her and Jackaby to be a thing, especially with the other little part of me that wonders if Jackaby kinda-sorta-likes-her even if he would obviously never notice/admit it. But that’s not a big deal. Their friendship/partnership is still great as-is, and in a way it makes it better, I suppose, since romance isn’t tangled in between. So I can get on board with that, I guess. And the vague romance bits are a very minor sideplot — these are mostly about the mysteries, which was kind of refreshing in a sense. 🙂
Thoughts by Book
I loved the “feel” of this one. Despite the touch of American stuff, which gives it just enough of a different kind of flavor, it feels almost like Holmesian London, which was fantastic. You get a sort of dark, shadowy, cobblestone street at night under a moon and gas streetlamps sort of feeling, where there could be a murderer or a creature from fantasy legend (or both) lurking in every shadow or towering building, and it’s fantastic.
The mystery is intriguing, with just the right amount of hints and evidence and mystery, with the ordinary police force thinking it’s ordinary, and Jackaby insisting it was unnatural. I just loved it! It’s kind of creepy, but in that way that I like (normally I don’t like creepy stuff, but this felt just right, somehow, so I didn’t mind; it wasn’t terrifying, just eerie).
I guessed the main parts of the mystery. Which was fantastic. One likes to feel smart, you know? Though there were, of course, a couple things that made me go “OH, of course I should have gotten that!” But the main things… totally had it. (Or at least variations. Which is fun too, because there’s so many things it COULD be, all your various guesses, and then you’re like “ohhhh, it was THAT one!”) I’m kind of addicted to mysteries, suddenly… I must read more!
Also, can I just say, the supernatural/fantasy aspect with the legendary creatures bits and so on, was a lot of fun. Especially with a banshee and… well… the other certain creatures of Celtic and other folklore, which I will not give away in this review. 😉 But suffice it to say, it was really cool reading about it and going “oh, yes, I know about those legends!” It makes one feel connected.
The dialog was fabulous, of course. Jackaby and Abigail and their interactions are just my favorite thing about it. And Jackaby’s weird house/office and his laboratory and weird mix of science and fantasy, and the duck, and the pond on the third floor, and Jenny is interesting, and I love how Jackaby accidentally blows things up and stuff when he’s trying to cook. (Paprika, not gunpowder, Jackaby!) It’s just kind of a glorious mess and I love it. ❤ So that part, with all the quirkiness of him and his life, was definitely far from a disappointment! I think Abigail handles it all rather well. XD
It’s also pretty hilarious/awesome his interactions with the actual police/detectives. They’re kind of wary and weary of him, and he’s just all chipper and “yep, let me just wander into the crime scene and poke around and it’s obviously a sinister creature who did this, by the way.” And the Inspector fellow is just like ready to strangle him. It’s awesome. Oh, and Charlie was a great character too! I guessed his twist too (or most of it) and… yes. Bwahaha. I really like his character. 🙂 All the great characters!
Though I do wish we’d learn more about Jackaby himself! Since it’s all from Abigail’s point of view, we get little hints about him and his past and various things, but not nearly enough! I want backstory and reasons and his NAME and all the things about him being a seer and his history and everything and slkjdlkjdlkjl I just want to know about all the Jackaby things, please! *waits on the edge of my seat for book 3*
All in all, really enjoyed “Jackaby”!
Beastly Bones (#2)
So even though this sequel kept me more hooked and turning pages faster than even the first one, I didn’t enjoy it as much as “Jackaby.” Possibly partly because of that… I don’t like being really stressed out by books? It went into a more creepy feeling than the first one, maybe? Other people might like this one even better, because it’s more “original” than the first book, but sometimes I prefer familiar to “original.”
It’s kind of hard to explain my thoughts on the book without giving major spoilers about the plot… but I’ll try.
I’m giving this one 4 stars primarily for Jackaby himself, of course, and how much I in general enjoyed his and Abigail’s and Charlie’s interactions with each other. As a sequel, I’m already immensely attached to this trio, so it was great to see them again and that’s the main reason. Part of the 4 stars is also, yes, for a couple of brilliant things in the plot, and for the fact that I couldn’t put it down, and for the humor/awesome dialog.
So if it had just been those things? Instant 5 star. As it was, I had complaints about this one, which might otherwise have dipped it into the three-star territory; and they’re probably all petty and inconsequential, but oh well. Also, I think that most of my complaints will be things in its favor from others’ points of view, because I’m an odd duck. 😛 (My name is not Douglas, though. …Yes, I went there.)
For one thing, the setting was totally different than the first. I really enjoyed the London-esque feeling in the first, whereas this one was out in the American countryside and felt like it was trying and failing a bit, to be more like a western or… something? That was odd to me, and didn’t seem to fit the feel of the first one. (Like I said, others might find this cool/original.)
Then there was the fantastical/supernatural/fantasy element. In the first one, I really enjoyed the mentioned creatures/legends, because I felt like I knew them, and they were familiar. In this one, though, there were a bunch of weird random things, clever, yes, but some of them kind of creeped me out. So except for an eventual twist which did bring a fantasy creature I’m used to (and is a total spoiler but was kind of awesome and also terrible at the same time), I just felt… disconnected from the fantasy elements.
Also, in the first one, I could relate to Abigail pretty well most of the time, trying to find her way in a new place and deal with Jackaby. But in this one, it was all about her obsession with dinosaur bones and her wondering about being an independent woman. Now, no offense to anyone, but dinosaur bones bore me to death. I was just like can we please have something interesting now, please? And I think she was doing an okay job at being “independent” as a woman in the first one, without being stuck-up about it like these kinds of “strong women” do in books. In this one, there was this reporter lady who was feeding Abigail all these lines about such things, and I think Abigail did fine on her own before this lady came along. Ugh. So anyway, no to the dinosaur bones, until the twist in the plot (which I’d begun to predict–points for me! Though they really should have figured it out way earlier. EVIDENCE, peoples!) later in the story, which made it become interesting again. So that was kind of awesome. 😀 I won’t say anything more about it, but you’ll know when you read it. Fabulous. ❤
And then the characters. I didn’t like any of them.
…Okay, that may be harsh.
Obviously I still adore Jackaby, and also Charlie, and Abigail SOMETIMES… (we’ll get into that), and I have nothing against the old farmer, poor fellow. But everyone else I pretty much disliked, felt “meh” about, or loathed. Which is not good when I think you’re not supposed to? I’m sorry! I don’t usually rant, but pardon me for a moment while I rant about some characters, and I apologize to anyone who liked them.
Both the excavating fellows (forgot their names, sorry; I read this from the library and sent it back, so I don’t have the references for names or quotes — which is killing me because ALL THE AWESOME QUOTES WHICH I DON’T OWN) were awful — the younger one because I kept suspecting him of things because he was young/handsome/slightly slimy and very goodmannered, and the other because he was a total JERK who is simply painful to read about because he’s going around being grouchy and bullying everyone through contracts. I’ll admit he wasn’t so bad eventually, simply because the other characters wouldn’t play his game, but still. Bleh. It was awful with these dinosaur bone people treading all over this poor farmer guy’s rights and acting like they’re in charge. I hated that. They made me want to throw the book. Sometimes it’s just really hard to read things like that, for me at least.
The trapper fellow who was Jackaby’s friend was okay, but I never got into him. His accent was supposed to be some sort of mountain-man/western/southern/rural drawl thing, I think? Which I’ve never been into in print — it comes across as annoying to me, all the “ya’s” and… I don’t know, it doesn’t read well, somehow, and almost is demeaning because it’s almost like it’s being made fun of. I LIKE trappers/mountainmen/western/southern/rural people/places, but I don’t like when they seem backward. I don’t have anything against him, per se, I just didn’t click with him and thought it was weird that he and Jackaby were friends. The twist about HIM, I felt should have been all… “wow”? But I was just kind of “…um, okay then.” about it.
And then the reporter lady. UGH. I simply loathed her. And she’s supposed to be a likeable character, I think! But she just had this annoying “I do whatever I want” thing going and was always quipping things (kind of like Irene Adler in the Robert Downey Jr. movies, but without anything likeable about her) and annoying me over being a “strong heroine” sort of person who despises men and kept getting in the way and leading Abigail astray about poor Charlie (gaaahh.) and just… I loathed her. (And I don’t CARE what happened at the end, I still don’t like her and it can’t make me, and I suppose I should feel bad but I don’t.) She made me want to throw the book again. (I didn’t. It’s a library book. And I wouldn’t actually throw books because that would be wrong because books are still precious things even when one does loathe characters in them. But still.)
And I was annoyed at Abigail a good bit in this one. I liked her fine in the first book, and occasionally in this, but sometimes I just wanted to smack her in the back of the head with a noodle and go ABIGAIL COME ON. It’s petty, I suppose, but I wanted her to dislike the nasty characters as much as I did, but she was too patient with them. Okay, so that’s not good reason; I must be a horrible person. But really, did she have to put up with them?? And the bone obsession, which like I said, I just couldn’t understand. Mostly, though, her pigheadedness about Charlie through most of it. JUST MARRY HIM ALREADY, WOMAN. (Okay, so I have a slight uncertainty about that too because I kind of like the idea of her and Jackaby, too. Oh well. I apparently can’t decide. But still.) Though I must admit that a lot of this made for some really excellent scenes, where she was half getting romantic advice from Jackaby on the subject and he was just like “oh my goodness please no do not involve me seriously why are you doing this to me just stop” but at the same time giving her almost advice and it was hilarious and awesome. XD And then the ending… yes. All of the yes. With the train and all. 😀 *cackles*
But my goodness, I didn’t mean to turn this into a bashing party. I’m sorry! The book is actually quite good, I couldn’t stop reading it, it was very absorbing, and I really loved lots of it! It just wasn’t quite as amazing as the first one, to me. Like I said, though, I bet that all of the things I disliked about it, will probably not be a problem to other readers, so don’t let me stop you from reading/loving this book. It’s definitely an intriguing book, and I’m not going to stop reading Jackaby things because like I said, I’m addicted… I guess I just feel strongly about this book in many ways, which is actually a good thing!
And I can’t really be too mad at any of the problems, because then along comes Jackaby and some of the banter and I’m just “yep, I love this so much.” So.
BOOK THREE RIGHT NOW PLEASE AND THANK YOU.
The Map: A Jackaby Story (#1.5)
Oh my word, this story! GAH. *huggles it* Okay, so it’s a short story/novella type thing, which is free on Kindle, set between Jackaby and Beastly Bones. It’s a short, fun read, and has an even different feel than the other two, but I simply LOVED it.
It’s Abigail’s birthday, and Jackaby takes her on a treasure hunt with an old map and fantastical things ensue. But get this: it’s entirely based around trying to find the treasure from the Irish song “Whiskey in the Jar.” This kind of totally made my day!!! Just… the idea of it. I suppose for anyone who reads it who’s not familiar with the song, they’d just be like “whaaat?” but since I grew up on old Irish songs and always loved that one, it was simply fabulous.
I hardly have anything to say on this one because I don’t want to ruin any of the plot, but it was just a rollick and I loved it. It had its share of perils and such, but mostly it was just an excuse for Jackaby and Abigail to go on an adventure together and interact, which was just so much FUN! I think sometimes, some of my favorite character pairings/groups could just do NOTHING plot-wise and I’d still enjoy it. In a way, big scary mysteries/adventures/problems which constitute “plot” can even take away from the fun of simple character interaction which is my favorite part of some things.
(Like in Avengers 2, my favorite part is when they’re hanging out together trying to pick up Thor’s hammer, just bickering and having fun. It’s the BEST! I’d watch a whole movie about them hanging out; it’s almost not as fun when they have to go do PLOT things… So, just an example.)
Anyways, it’s so worth it just to see them interact, but the rest of the plot is fun too, and the hints from the song (some of which I guessed), and the touch of almost-steampunk with an airship and all, and the goblins with their semi-Scottish accents which was so fun to read, and THAT ENDING. So much. ❤
Basically, READ IT. It’s just fabulous and I adore it to bits.
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 case: A serial killer is on the loose. The police are convinced it’s an ordinary villain, but Jackaby is certain it’s a nonhuman creature, whose existence the police–with the exception of a handsome young detective named Charlie Cane–deny.
Doctor Who meets Sherlock in William Ritter’s debut novel, which features a detective of the paranormal as seen through the eyes of his adventurous and intelligent assistant in a tale brimming with cheeky humor and a dose of the macabre.
Beastly Bones (#2)
First, a vicious species of shape-shifters disguise themselves as a litter of kittens, and a day later, their owner is found murdered with a single mysterious puncture wound. Then in nearby Gad’s Valley, now home to the exiled New Fiddleham police detective Charlie Cane, dinosaur bones from a recent dig mysteriously go missing, and an unidentifiable beast starts attacking animals and people, leaving their mangled bodies behind. Charlie calls on Abigail for help, and soon Abigail and Jackaby are on the hunt for a thief, a monster, and a murderer.
The Map: A Jackaby Story (#1.5)
Abigail hopes that her birthday will slip by unnoticed and uncelebrated, but her employer, detective of the supernatural R. F. Jackaby, has other plans. Using magical party crackers that teleport the pair to unknown destinations in time and space and a cryptic map that may lead to a forgotten treasure, Jackaby intends to give Abigail what he considers to be the best gift of all–adventure.
Abigail and Jackaby must tame an enormous (and carnivorous) rabbit, defend a castle, and master a dirigible if they want to find the treasure and get back to New Fiddleham alive.
Genre/Category: Mystery, Fantasy, Historical Fantasy (also The Map had a touch of possibly Steampunk?)
Age Group: Young Adult (From my memory, they’re quite clean, which made me happy!)
Published: 2014, 2015, 2015, respectively
Pages: 299 hardcover (Jackaby), 295 hardcover (Beastly Bones), 57 kindle (The Map) (651 pages total, so far)
When Read: February 7-8, February 10, and February 12, respectively
Favorite Character: JACKABY (I’ll be honest, Charlie is also awesome)
Other Notes: Got the novels from the library, and the novella free on Kindle!
Cupcake awards to anyone who made it through reading this whole post.
(I should probably rethink my idea of doing a “series review” when I actually have a lot to say about each of the books… But I just like this idea of doing it all at once, so I did it anyway. :P)
Thanks for reading!
Dream away in those pages . . .
~ The Page Dreamer