Book Reviews

[review] The Shadow Cabinet – Maureen Johnson

the shadow cabinet maureen johnson coverRelease Date: February 10, 2015
Publisher: Putnam Juvenile
Age Group: General Fiction
Pages: 376
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased copy

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.

Tell Me More: Maybe I built things up too much in my head. After the throw-my-copy-across-the-room ending in The Madness Underneath, the next Shades of London book set itself a high hurdle to jump. Unfortunately, I didn’t feel that The Shadow Cabinet managed to scale that hurdle very well, even as it continues to set up for the final novel in the series.

Where the first two books were centred around Rory’s discovery of MI5/the spooks, Shadow Cabinet finally expands upon the ghost mythology, the connection between Jane’s group and the paranormal events dogging Rory’s steps, and why it’s so important for Rory to stay safe. Readers get a flashback to Jane’s beginnings, and the people who have influenced her for almost her entire life. These characters are truly chilling, and they heighten the sense of danger in the series. That said, their appearances basically bookend the story, and I would have loved to see more of them to really cement the stakes that Rory has to face.

Unlike the first two books, however, pacing was more of an issue in The Shadow Cabinet. While there were chapters that felt almost breakneck in speed, there were others that moved much more slowly, enough that I’d have to reread some parts to make sure I hadn’t forgotten a crucial piece of information. I’ll also admit that the years between The Madness Underneath and Shadow Cabinet didn’t help with the confusion I experienced. It was also harder to get a sense of where any of the events were happening–I found myself wondering more than once if I’d missed a sentence telling me which part of London the characters were in, because there wasn’t a whole lot of description to set the scenes.

This might not sound like a big thing to consider, but it becomes an important point in regards to backstory that we gain in this novel. The titular Shadow Cabinet is dependent on geography for very specific and life-threatening reasons, and as a reader who’s never been to London, I needed more reinforcement of where events were occurring so I could understand how they affected the plot.

The Final Say: Sophomore syndrome may have skipped right over onto The Shadow Cabinet, as this third installment of the Shades of London series doesn’t manage to carry the momentum of the first two books forward.


maureen johnson author photoAbout Maureen

Maureen knew from an early age she wanted to be a writer. She went to high school at an all-girls’ Catholic school and graduated from University of Delaware with a degree in writing. She now lives and writes in New York City.

Many of the adventures Maureen’s characters face in her books are based on real-life stories. Maureen has traveled all over Europe, and is a Secret Sister to vlog brothers Hank and John Green.

Add The Shadow Cabinet on Goodreads | Follow Maureen on Twitter @MaureenJohnson | Visit Maureen’s website | Follow Maureen on Tumblr

Order The Shadow Cabinet from Amazon | Book Depository | Chapters

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