The Name of the Star

(Shades of London #1)
by Maureen Johnson

Name of the Star coverRory’s first day in London for boarding school is epically timed: someone has been murdered in the exact fashion Jack the Ripper killed his first victim. Down to the exact detail.

Police are stumped, Ripper-mania has taken over London and Rory’s struggling to figure out this London boarding school thing. As bodies pile up, Rory finds herself as a witness to one of the murders – putting her at the heart of a bizarre, and dangerous, investigation.

We’re going to start this review anecdotally (new word?).

This summer, I was lucky enough to spend roughly two weeks in Great Britain. Nearly one entire week was in London. Since then, I have really enjoyed reading books set in London. It warms my heart to have my own memories associated with the setting of a novel. So, obviously, Johnson’s latest played right into my heart with that.

While I was in London, however, my traveling peeps and I stopped at the Piccadilly Waterstones. I went in to pick up the redesigned Harry Potter and the Philosopher Stone for my collection (naturally), but also wanted to get a fiction book set in London, preferably by an English author. Unsurprisingly, I ended up leaving with 4 books, in addition to the HP [which joined the latin HP I had picked up in Oxford]. Two of those books were by the author Ben Aaronovitch, a writer for Doctor Who Classic, and the first two in a series about London with absolutely stunning covers.

I ADORED Rivers of London, the first of the two books, and was pleasantly surprised to see some awesome similarities between that and NotS. Not everything, mind you, but both involve a branch of the London police force dealing with supernatural elements. Both have witty and amusing characters. Both were a bit on the creepy side. Just a win all around for both books.

As I’ve mentioned before on this blog, I adore Maureen Johnson and there isn’t much she can do wrong, in my eyes. She writes characters I enjoy reading about and cheer for constantly. And, like New York City in the Scarlett series, London is a huge feature in this book. No generic locations mentioned in this one.

She’s ventured into the supernatural before (Devilish, her third published novel, I think?) and it is apparent how much she has developed as a writer since then. I also love an author that changes genre-hats frequently and changes them well.

I had some minor issues with NotS: Rory’s motivations seemed….false to me sometimes, and she almost crossed into the Louisiana VooDoo Swamp People Stereotype (is that a thing? It’s the only way I can think to describe it) a few times, but it was usually okay.

I also didn’t find Rory’s rival in school (or, for that matter, her romantic interest) to be particularly interesting next to the real villain of the story.

Which brings me to the Jack the Ripper storyline – LOVED. Holy geez, creepy. And the supernatural element was a fun twist, for me. Fingers crossed that Rory figures out who the real romantic lead should be in the next book.

I am a bit confused how this trilogy is going to continue? I mean, I GET where the plot is going, but I thought it was billed as a Jack the Ripper trilogy? Maybe I misread? I have some guesses, but, I’m still not sure? Which is a good thing?

Either way, I’m pretty excited for the next book to come out – the action really started to pick up at the end of the NotS. I don’t think this set will appeal to all of Johnson’s contemporary readers, but her comedic styles are ever present and the premise is totally fascinating. A fun, fun read with an interesting twist at the end, just for kicks.

Where this book came from: a signed copy flew across two countries from NYC to live in my library forever!
Published by: Putnam Juvenile

p.s. the second book, The Madness Underneath, doesn’t come out until 2013. Sadface.

p.p.s. While I don’t think the NotS has the most awful cover ever, I do find it odd. I much prefer the UK version.

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