The day Louisiana teenager Rory Deveaux arrives in London marks a memorable occasion. For Rory, it’s the start of a new life at a London boarding school. But for many, this will be remembered as the day a series of brutal murders broke out across the city, gruesome crimes mimicking the horrific Jack the Ripper events of more than a century ago.
Soon “Rippermania” takes hold of modern-day London, and the police are left with few leads and no witnesses. Except one. Rory spotted the man police believe to be the prime suspect. But she is the only one who saw him. Even her roommate, who was walking with her at the time, didn’t notice the mysterious man. So why can only Rory see him? And more urgently, why has Rory become his next target? In this edge-of-your-seat thriller, full of suspense, humor, and romance, Rory will learn the truth about the secret ghost police of London and discover her own shocking abilities.
I’ve been meaning to read this novel for ages. I was delighted to listen to Maureen Johnson, and Leigh Bardugo at the Edinburgh International Book Festival last August talking about Alternative Worlds. In fact there is a write up of this wonderful event on my blog on the 25th of August under the heading Author interviews and Talks. So check that out.
In my opinion The Name of The Star, (The Shades of London #), really captures the reader’s imagination about half way through the story. Up until the half way mark it’s a little slow, bogged down by the detail of introducing the setting and the characters. But, on the whole it is quite an engaging story, and Maureen does a great job keeping us entertained with her little witticisms. Luckily the pace livens up in the second half of the novel, and elements of the story are revealed that make it a much more exciting tale, so watch out for that! I would say the writing style is not complex, it is more middle grade, yet the topic is YA, which makes it an easy, fast read.
Rory is from Louisiana but has been sent to Wexford Academy, a boarding school in London. Despite the culture shock, Rory settles into Wexford without too much difficulty. Although she does feel somewhat challenged by the emphasis on sport, particularly hockey. Still, everything else seems to be going well, and she likes her new roommate Jazza. Her boarding school happens to be in the same area that was terrorized by Jack the Ripper in 1888. Weirdly it seems as if Jack is back in town, and wants to greet Rory. “It was as if the news itself wanted to reassure me. Even Jack the Ripper himself had reappeared as part of the greeting committee.” There are CCTV cameras all over London, yet this isn’t deterring someone from carrying out copy cat Jack The Ripper murders. With the murders comes a new flat mate, Boo, who seems very different from Rory’s flatmate Jazza, and everything begins to change. I liked Maureen’s choice of name, Boo, for Rory’s new flat mate, very witty!
It’s a new twist on the Jack The Ripper story and on the whole it works well. The characters are well crafted, particularly Rory, the main female character, and for the most part the story line is believable, (bearing in mind that this is about ghosts!) Though, I did wonder a bit about the method used to zap the ghosts into oblivion possibly this stretched the powers of believability a bit. Though, Maureen Johnson likes to be humorous so maybe she was thinking of changing channels on her TV when she came up with the idea! No, more about that, I don’t want to spoil it for you. The book appears to be well researched, you get the sense that Maureen Johnson tiptoed around London snooping around to find out all she could about the various parts of London where Jack the Ripper struck.
There is a touch of romance in the story, Jerome the love interest, seems to be obsessed with Jack the Ripper, in fact he encourages Rory to sneak out of Wexford through a broken window, to a roof top vantage point at Aldshot, hoping to see something. Jerome sounds a bit daft, and fool-hardy, typical teenage boy material. Later on the way back Rory does indeed see something, or possibly someone, but her flat mate does not, adding to the mystery. I had the sense that Maureen Johnson didn’t intend that this romance was to play a big part in the novel, in a way it seemed to be a bit of light-hearted relief for Rory, a snog with obsessive Jerome, seemed to take her mind of the Ripper’s devilish plans. You can’t blame the poor girl. If you are looking for a well developed romance this isn’t it, this feels more like a bit of a light-hearted temporary diversion, with a very satisfactory snog as a compensation.“Kissing is something that makes up for a lot of other crap you have to put up with…It can be confusing and weird and awkward, but sometimes it just makes you melt and forget everything that is going on.”
“Fear can’t hurt you,” she said. “When it washes over you, give it no power. It’s a snake with no venom. Remember that. That knowledge can save you.”
“And if we get caught, I will claim I made you go. At gunpoint. I am American. People will assume I’m armed.”
“I decided to deflect her attitude by giving a long, Southern answer. I come from people who know how to draw things out. Annoy a Southerner, and we will drain away the moments of your life with our slow, detailed replies until you are nothing but a husk of your former self and that much closer to death.”
“The English play hockey in any weather. Thunder, lightening, plague of locusts…nothing can stop the hockey. Do not fight the hockey, for the hockey will win.”
“Walk really, really carefully. It’s not complicated, but if you mess up, you’ll die, so pay attention.”
“It was almost funny. Life seemed downright accidental in its brevity, and death a punch line to a lousy joke.”
“Something about her suggested that her leisure activities included wrestling large woodland animals and banging bricks together.”
Recommended for readers of Young Adult, Mystery, Paranormal, Historical Fiction, Horror.
4 stars – The beginning is a bit slow probably a 3.5 star beginning but it picked up pace so I award it 4 stars overall.
Have you read The Name of The Star? Do leave a comment I’d love to hear from you.
Marje @ Kyrosmagica xx