“Jackaby” misses the mark

“Jackaby” misses the mark

Colleen KellyWASHBURN UNIVERSITY

“Jackaby” is the first in a new Young Adult paranormal historical fiction series set in 19th century New England. The novel follows Abigail Rook, a young runaway seeking adventure far from her London home who finds herself in the employment of an eccentric supernatural detective named Jackaby. Despite their opposing personalities, the two team up to track down a gruesome serial killer on a rampage in the area.

Let me just say that this novel is deceiving. It has a synopsis similar to mine that makes it sound like this exciting Sherlock-esque adventure, and that is exactly the problem. It delivers on presenting the reader with a story and character very much like Sherlock (namely Benedict Cumberbatch’s BBC Sherlock), but at times felt too similar to feel original. Jackaby is socially awkward and accidentally comedic, while consistently being the most obscurely brilliant person in the room. He is entertaining and has a dozen or so great quotes, but that doesn’t necessarily make him interesting. Ritter tried way too hard to make Jackaby seem interesting and quirky, and the character came off as obnoxious at times as a result.

There isn’t anything inherently wrong with Abigail as a main character, if anything she encouraged me to push through the whole story. She isn’t a character we haven’t read before (clever, adventurous, rebels against parents, “not like the other girls”), but she is a charming protagonist nonetheless and I rooted for her the whole way.

The overall story was fun to read and thankfully fast-paced, but it lacked substance. A lot of the chapters just left me bored or waiting for something to blow my mind, but that something never came and I have to blame the unpolished writing style. I wish Ritter would have spent more time world-building because I had such a difficult time picturing his fictional Victorian New England city, and even Jackaby’s home at times was impossible to picture in my mind. The story is straightforward, to the point and did a nice job of explaining the complex deductive reasoning and all of the supernatural lore explored throughout the novel, so points for that, though.

This is not a novel I will readily recommend. The smash hit series “The Mortal Instruments” by Cassandra Clare and its superior prequel trilogy “The Infernal Devices” both have very similar premises to “Jackaby,” but they execute it infinitely better. It’s because I’ve read both series prior to this that I have something to measure “Jackaby” against, so I’ll admit that it gives me a bit of a bias. I could imagine plenty of readers new to paranormal mystery or urban fantasy novels enjoying “Jackaby” as an introduction into the genres, but I for one was highly disappointed in it. The sequel “The Beastly Bones” is set for release this September and I have no intention of picking it up.

Verdict: 2/5 stars