When Maureen Johnson writes a thriller, she is in no rush to get to the end and soothe you. She pulls you along at a near infuriating pace, perhaps assessing your anxiety with an amused grin. She must know she has you hook, line, and sinker. The stakes are high and yet she tantalizes you with glimpses of information and other tasty morsels. Bless her. Despite my impatience, she knows how to put together a compelling read.
The Shadow Cabinet is the third book in the Shades of London series. Please keep in mind this is a series and since this is the third novel, there may be some spoilers in here if you have not read the previous installments.
The book picks up right where we left off in The Madness Underneath: Stephen’s dead, Rory is “missing,” having run away from her private school Wexford after being expelled, and prefect Charlotte has been presumably kidnapped by a bunch of sight-having and dangerous witchy weirdos.
This whole story made my heart ache. It was wonderful to be back with characters I’ve adored so much in the past, but it was a little painful to see them go through such difficulties. I loved Stephen. He was the best with his little police uniform and his little sweater and grim set little mouth. He was my favorite character (besides our lovely protagonist). There is something about the stoic, self-sacrificing, serious leader type that does it for me every time. Plus I imagine he must have a lovely and quite posh accent. Umf. Stephen. So my investment in his death and potential not death was EXTREME throughout the book. I pretty much had myself going nuts the whole time trying to figure out what the end game was going to be with that. It distracted me from many of the other horrible things that quickly began happening as Rory, Callum, Boo, and their shadowy government agency overseer Thorpe work together to get to the bottom of Charlotte’s disappearance, Stephen’s death, and whatever creepy Jane was/is up to. Then of course there is the smaller (but equally dramatic) issue of Jerome and he and Rory’s recent breakup. With so much going on, the book itself moves quickly from scene to scene, but it sure as hell takes its sweet time to get to the climax (and thereby address the most pressing issues).
The Shadow Cabinet does a good job of really solidifying the mythology of the Shades of London’s world, elucidating many of the questions I have previously had. It goes into a little more detail about the mechanics of having the sight and the boundaries between life and death. It does get a bit magic-y but not in an unpleasant way. Rory is an enjoyable character to inhabit: a teenage girl, fairly easy to relate to, funny, sunny, and appropriately sarcastic. Even in the darkest of moments, Rory handles herself with grace. She is easy to root for.
I found The Shadow Cabinet to be a fun and engaging read, equal parts thrilling and stressful (there are a few moments that are a bit gruesome and unsettling but these only add to the suspense and atmosphere). I am so interested to see how this series concludes. Not sure when the next book is slated to come out but I am anxiously anticipating its arrival.
Until next time!