Serena’s Review: “The Dire King”

31438747Book: “The Dire King” by William Ritter

Publishing Info: Algonquin Young Readers, August 2017

Where Did I Get this Book: the library!

Book Description: The fate of the world is in the hands of detective of the supernatural R. F. Jackaby and his intrepid assistant, Abigail Rook. An evil king is turning ancient tensions into modern strife, using a blend of magic and technology to push Earth and the Otherworld into a mortal competition. Jackaby and Abigail are caught in the middle as they continue to solve the daily mysteries of New Fiddleham, New England — like who’s created the rend between the worlds, how to close it, and why zombies are appearing around. At the same time, the romance between Abigail and the shape-shifting police detective Charlie Cane deepens, and Jackaby’s resistance to his feelings for 926 Augur Lane’s ghostly lady, Jenny, begins to give way. Before the four can think about their own futures, they will have to defeat an evil that wants to destroy the future altogether.

Previously Reviewed: “Jackaby,” “Beastly Bones,” and “Ghostly Echoes”

Review: “Ghostly Echoes” did a nice job of tying together all the pieces methodicly laid out in the previous two books. More than that, it gave us some much needed history for many of our main characters, as well as, importantly, the villain. The stage was set, and all that remained was whether or not Ritter would be able to balance the light tone and quirkiness at the core of the series with this more serious plotline. The answer is mostly! While there are spots that I believe could have been improved or more fleshed out, I’m happy to report that I finished this book, and this series, pleasantly satisfied.

There was a lot to get done in this book. The supernatural world has been exposed to the general public, once and for all. The series “big bad” is gearing up to make its move. And there are two romantic plotlines that needed to be handled, both with fairly large obstacles standing in there way. Charlie is still a wanted man for this actions back in book one that exposed his identity as a shapeshifter. And now, in a city that is spooky at the barest hint of the strange, his position and future are all the more uncertain. And Jenny, while making great strides forward with her ability to function more fully in the living world, is still, well, a ghost.

After learning that his wife is a supernatural being who has been operating behind the scenes for years in the service of her villainous leader, the governor of New Fiddleham is not messing around. But with this new found belief comes fanaticism, and Abigail and Jackaby are horrified to see the city’s jail cells filling up with all manner of innocent, supernatural beings. It’s a literal witch hunt. I very much enjoyed this portion of the story. Many of the side characters we’ve met throughout this series were either already familiar with the supernatural world, or, for whatever reason, more open-minded to the positive aspects of these beings. Here, we see the negative side of humanity when confronted with beings they don’t understand, and I think this balance added a healthy dose of realism to a series that could, at times, veer into the twee with its characters.

I also very much enjoyed the exploration of the two main romantic plotlines to the story. Jenny and Jackaby’s relationship has been later to the show, and while I’m still not convinced that this was a necessary addition, I was pleasantly surprised with the way this played out. Importantly, Jackaby’s utter cluelessness wasn’t undercut by his being turned into a second romantic hero. While I may still have preferred the series to have left his character single in the more traditional “Sherlock Holmes” manner, I was satisfied with what Ritter did with him here.

Abigail and Charlie, however, have been slowly building towards this point throughout the series. They have had to confront not only the challenges of Charlie’s public image issues, but also explore the balance between their personal and professional lives. It was fun seeing these two work together on a case in this book, witnessing the fact that they work together not only as romantic interests, but as equals who respect what the other brings to the table.

The larger story, that of the Dire King himself, was also very intriguing. The fae world was blown out and we see that up to this point we, and the characters, have mostly been operating in a tiny slice of this strange and complicated world.

The story concludes on a bitter sweet and more serious note than I had expected. But I found this to be particularly refreshing. When I picked up this book, it took me a bit of time to again slip into the particular tone of this series. All four books have been written in a rather simple style, often playing with words and phrases in a comedic way. This style, while fun, also tends to undercut more serious moments in the story, and knowing that this was the conclusion to the series, I was a bit more put off my this lightness when dealing with these more serious issues. However, Ritter doesn’t shy away from consequences in this book, light writing tone or no light writing tone.

All in all, I very much enjoyed this book and the series as a whole. Definitely check it out if you enjoy re-imagingings of Sherlock Holmes type characters, and historical fantasy. The writing style is on the lighter side, however, something that may read as strange to fans of adult fiction. But keep an open mind! For all of its quirkiness, there are real monsters hidden in this text!

Rating 8: A great conclusion to a unique, creative series!

Reader’s Advisory:

“The Dire King” is included on this Goodreads list: “Teen & YA Detective Mysteries.”

Find “The Dire King” at your library using Worldcat!

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