Maureen Johnson is an American author who mostly writes young adult fiction, she is best known for Shades of London and Suite Scarlett series. The Name of the Star came out in 2011 and it is the first book in the Shades of London series in which currently there are three books and one novella with a promise to have the fourth book out in 2018.
The first book concentrates on Aurora – an American girl who’s parents move to England for work and she decides to study in London. Excited by the move, she learns about England and English ways of talking and living, but there’s a shade over her arrival in the country – someone has started to recreate the famous Jack the Ripper killings from 1888 in East London – very close to Rory’s school. What more she is sure that she had seen the ‘Ripper’, but it doesn’t seem like any of her friends and even police believes her.
This book was a page turner, that is a fact. I can’t deny that some plot twists, events or parts of the story did seem silly and sometimes even bordered on being stupid, but the author managed to pass that without losing the readers interest in the story.
I found that there were a lot of predictable things in this book, yet I didn’t feel disappointed when they happened (as I often do in other books), because there was an equal part of things that were impossible to predict (due to lack of hints). And that really is quite something that not every author can do. I mean, I predicted part of the book, yet I was in suspense almost until the last chapter.
This series has been on my to read list for a long time, mostly due to taking place in London and I am really glad that I finally got to it. The book, however, doesn’t enter my favourite book list. I didn’t really like any of Rory’s school friends (especially her boyfriend, GOD, there seemed to be no chemistry!) as characters – Alistair being the only exception to the rule. I didn’t even like Aurora’s (and her being obsessed with calling herself Rory) character. I liked the special squad – the Shades, but they were not explored in great detail. So the lack of likeable characters was a big hit to the book.
I am not sure if the fact that I have done the Jack the Ripper tour helped me with reading this book. I obviously don’t remember much of the stories, but I remember the places where we walked and knew about the murders and approximately how they happened. So that kind of helped me to try to predict what and how could happen, but I don’t think that lack of this knowledge would actually hurt someone reading the book. Everything was explained anyway and could give a general impression of the murders.
Although the book was a fast and exciting read and was burning my hands – in sense that I had to read it to know what is going to happen, I felt like it was lacking something. Can’t really say what, but I wouldn’t put it between my favourite books even if some of them were less of page turners than this one. And because of that I gave it three stars on my goodreads page and would say that generally young adult fans who also like mystery probably would like this book. It was a fun, quick read, so why not try it? I have already bought the next one!
Let me know what you think of the book and the series (keep spoilers for the next books to yourselves, please) in the comments below and if you have suggestions for series or a standalone that is similarly addictive, fast paced and generally a decent page turner, let me know, I might give them a try. But for now – cheerio!