Thursday, April 16, 2015

Review: The Shadow Cabinet by Maureen Johnson

The Shadow Cabinet by Maureen Johnson
Publisher: Putnam Juvenile
Release Date: February 10th, 2015

Rory and her friends are reeling from a series of sudden and tragic events. While racked with grief, Rory tries to determine if she acted in time to save a member of the squad. If she did, how do you find a ghost? Also, Rory’s classmate Charlotte has been kidnapped by Jane and her nefarious organization. Evidence is uncovered of a forty-year-old cult, ten missing teenagers, and a likely mass murder. Everything indicates that Charlotte’s in danger, and it seems that something much bigger and much more terrible is coming.

Time is running out as Rory fights to find her friends and the ghost squad struggles to stop Jane from unleashing her spectral nightmare on the entire city. In the process, they'll discover the existence of an organization that underpins London itself—and Rory will learn that someone she trusts has been keeping a tremendous secret.
"The book suffers from mid-series syndrome...but I still greatly enjoyed [it]"

I have been waiting for this book for what seems like ages, so I'm so happy that it's finally out! The book picks up where The Madness Underneath left off, which was both a good and a bad thing. Good because it was such a cliffhanger; bad because I had a hard time remembering everything that had happened. But thankfully, I found that the book cleverly inserted dialogue, thoughts, and passages to discreetly help readers recall the events of the previous books. It's done in a way that it's not very obvious if you do remember the plot but it's so helpful if you don't.

Anyway, I think my favorite aspect of the series is the interactions between the group comprised of Boo, Callum, Stephen, and Rory. The Shadow Cabinet, by nature, wasn't able to capture that same energy and connection. That's not to say there aren't some great moments, but I thought that a lot of that chemistry was lost, not that it was anyone's fault. It obviously makes sense for the story, but it's a bit disappointing. I did enjoy Jerome and Freddie's addition/part in the story, and I hope to see more of them in the next book. The thing is, Freddie didn't really seem to do anything. She seemed more like a plot device, used to get information to the group that they couldn't figure out themselves. But beyond that, she wasn't doing anything; I'm really hoping that'll change in the next one. In addition, I can't wait to see more of Sid and Sadie. What an interesting pair that will definitely cause lots of havoc. I'm excited to see how things will play out!

[[Contains some spoilers for The Madness Underneath]]]
But while Johnson continues to do a great job with Rory's character, I was a bit disappointed to see how obsessed she was with getting Stephen back. I understand how upset she was, and I think that fact is reflected in the different reactions Boo and Callum had. But Rory seemed too caught up with Stephen, seemed too dependent and too boy crazy. I wanted her to stand up and do something for a reason other than to get Stephen back. I completely understand why she would want to, but I would have liked to see her stake in it as being more than because of him. [[End spoilers]]
Again, that's not to say I didn't enjoy how Rory was written. I think that her inner thoughts very much reflected the character I'd come to know her as. She kept her weirdness, and she still made me laugh. She went through a transformation, and while part of it was through everything going on with Stephen, it was also a large part her finding herself and her power and strength. I like that she did what she wanted, not without caution but her interpretation of caution and danger differs from most of our ideas on the two.

Plot-wise, the pacing was wonky at times, slow for large portions followed by fast-paced action-y portions. The book is different from the past two in that there is a bit less action, as the circumstances is slower and not so much on the front lines. The true "enemy" is unclear for a large part of the story, and much of this book sets up facts and ideas for the next book. It definitely means that the book suffers from mid-series syndrome, in which while the events in the book are really important, they mostly set up the events of the next book. There was enough going on and enough dots that needed to be connected to keep me interested and really engaged. I don't think this was the exciting book I was expecting, but I understood the need for a more slowly moving book. I predicted many of the twists, but it was so fun trying to put the pieces together about The Shadow Cabinet and how it relates to what's going on.

I was a tiny bit disappointed with the book, but I still greatly enjoyed The Shadow Cabinet. There's so much that the book sets up for the next/last (?) book. I already can't wait for it! I didn't find the plot or the character interactions nearly as strong in this book as the past two, but there's so much room for more in the next book.
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