Friday, October 17, 2014

Jackaby by William Ritter (Review)

Young Adult, Supernatural, Mystery
Publication.Date  September 16th 2014
Published By:  Algonquin Young Readers
AuthorWilliam Ritter

Jackaby on Goodreads
My review copy:Received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Where to get:

“Miss Rook, I am not an occultist,” Jackaby said. “I have a gift that allows me to see truth where others see the illusion--and there are many illusions. All the world’s a stage, as they say, and I seem to have the only seat in the house with a view behind the curtain.”

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.


It was the eyes, I think, that startled me the most, opened wide and staring with intense inquisition. It was the eyes—and the fact that he stood not half a pace from my stool, leaning ever so slightly in, so that our noses nearly bumped as I turned to face him.

His hair was black, or very dark brown, and nearly wild, having only enough civility to point itself in a tousled heap backward, save a few errant strands that danced about his temples. He had hard cheekbones and deep circles under pale, cloud gray eyes. His eyes looked like they could be a hundred lifetimes old, but he bore an otherwise young countenance and had a fervent energy about him.
“So she’s just a mad woman?”

Jackaby hesitated, and when he spoke, his answer had a soft earnestness to it. “Hatun sees a different world than you or I, a far more frightening one, full of far more terrible dangers, and still she chooses to be the hero whom that world needs. She has saved this town and its people from countless monsters countless times. That the battles are usually in her head does not lessen the bravery of it. The hardest battles always are.”
But that’s Jackaby in a nutshell. Science and magic, beauty and bedlam, things that ought to be at odds—they just don’t follow the same rules when Jackaby’s involved. 
Happiness is bliss—but ignorance is anesthetic, and in the face of what’s to come, that may be the best we can hope for our ill-fated acquaintances.

“Monsters are easy, Miss Rook. They’re monsters. But a monster in a suit? That’s basically just a wicked man, and a wicked man is a more dangerous thing by far.”

     Whimsical, quirky and highly entertaining, William Ritter's debut YA novel, Jackaby, is just as astonishing as its gorgeous packaging (just look at that cover!). 

     The plot line of Jackaby takes place in 1892 and involves a serial murderer of supernatural nature, an extraordinary detective with a sharp eye for anything mystical and unnatural, and a newly arrived in New Fiddleham young lady (not in distress) in need of a job. Abigail Rook ends up applying for the position of Jackaby's assistant and - thanks to her remarkable observation skills and the complete lack of competition - is immediately hired. Jackaby and Abigail will make a surprisingly well-matched team and their skills and wit will be put to test when the already twisted and horrific murder case will get ever more complicated. Will they find the killer before it's too late?

     I liked the fact that the book was written from the point of view of Jackaby's recently hired assistant, and not Jackaby himself, as it definitely provided us with an unbiased and insightful introduction to the charismatic hero and allowed us to get to know him without being tangled up in his wild and chaotic ( though certainly brilliant) trains of thought. Miss Rook made for a pleasant enough narrator - observant, open-minded, reasonably sassy and definitely intelligent. Tagging alongside Jackaby to all the crime scenes and investigating murders that screamed unnatural and unexplainable couldn't have been easy, but she handled it all with remarkable grace and bravery, earning my respect and admiration. And seeing Jackaby through her eyes allowed me to enjoy the plot line, the mystery, and the well researched tapestry of supernatural and mythical creatures without getting caught up in Jackaby's character. Because, let's face it, had this book been told from his perspective, he'd probably completely overshadow all the other aspects of it. 

     Jackaby is a fascinating character for sure, though I swear, to me he was more of a Jack Sparrow turned detective of supernatural phenomena, than Americanized version of Sherlock Holmes. There was just something about the way he handled himself that reminded me a lot of our favorite pirate. And no, it wasn't lack of hygiene or fondness of rum, rather his straightforwardness and completely unapologetic way of bursting into the crime scene like a tornado and doing 'his thing'. And, I admit, I kind of imagined his movements as fast and uncoordinated, though that might just be me. 

     The plot line itself was certainly well devised and filled with interesting bits and pieces of supernatural and occult information. It's not a very scary read - and it's not intended to be one - though there are a couple creepy and shudder-worthy situations and creatures woven into the story. The atmosphere is very mystifying and the big reveal - finding out who the murderer is - was unexpected and satisfactory enough for the book to be called a worthwhile read. 

     Ritter's usage of period-appropriate, almost lyrical prose makes for a spellbinding reading experience. His writing feels light and effortless, smooth and fluent, and very educated. I really enjoyed it, especially the witty dialogues and captivating descriptions. 

     To summarize, Jackaby is a very promising YA debut. I will be keeping a close eye on Ritter and his writing carrier, and I will be picking up the sequel with no hesitation. The characters in this book have so much potential for growth and I can see them becoming iconic and well-loved heroes and heroines of both young adult and adult readers. Can't wait to read more!

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