Authors: Lauren Oliver & H.C. Chester
Length: 368 pages
Source: eARC from Edelweiss
In this second book in the exceptional Curiosity House series by bestselling author Lauren Oliver and shadowy recluse H. C. Chester, four extraordinary children must avenge their friend’s death, try to save their home, and unravel the secrets of their past . . . before their past unravels them.
Pippa, Sam, Thomas, and Max are happy to be out of harm’s way now that the notorious villain Nicholas Rattigan is halfway across the country in Chicago. But unfortunately their home, Dumfreys’s Dime Museum of Freaks, Oddities, and Wonders, is in danger of closing its doors forever.
But their troubles only get worse. The four friends are shocked when their beloved friend, famous sculptor Siegfried Eckleberger, is murdered. As they investigate, they find clues that his death may be tied to the murder of a rich and powerful New York heiress, as well as to their own pasts.
This is the second book in the series and so boasts many wondrous and mysterious things inside, such as:
· Howie, the “Human Owl,” whose head turns just about all the way around
· A mean but important house cat
· Some perfectly ghastly wax sculptures
· A very thin boy named Chubby
· An awful mechanical leg
It continues not to have:
· A cautionary tale about running with scissors
· A list of time-consuming chores
· Nutritious and decidedly not delicious vegetables
· A perfectly sweet bedtime story about a wayward bunny
· Two wet kisses on the cheek from your aunt Mildred
Learn more about the series online at www.thecuriosityhouse.com.
Protagonists: After discovering their troubling roots Pippa, Max, Sam, and Thomas just want things to go back to normal at Dumfrey's Dime Museum of Freaks, Oddities, and Wonders, but tickets aren't selling well and their only hope seems to be a new exhibit featuring the murder of a prominent New York socialite who seems by all accounts to have been killed by her husband in a jealous rage. However, before they know it their dear friend, Siegfried Eckleberger, is murdered and it seems to be connected in some way to their new exhibit. As they look deeper into this mystery everything is not quite what it appears. I have to say I really love these characters. It's very easy to get a grasp on these characters and see where they're going. Pippa's gifts are growing and yet it happens very gradually, there's no great surge of sudden power, but fleeting feelings and moments. Max becomes a bit distracted by a new member of the Dumfrey's Dime Museum family who isn't all well liked by the others. Sam, still unable to fully control his strength is full of angst, just wanting to be like everyone else, to have a pet or even open a door without risking pulling it off its hinges. Then there's Thomas, as curious as ever and in many ways the tie that binds this group. I loved seeing these characters grow and face challenges that while a bit different can still resonate with the reader.
Romance: As with the first book in this series, there isn't a lot of romance, in fact, I'm skeptical to even call some of the stuff in this book romance. That being said, though, there are some romantic feelings floating around this cast of characters. It's all very innocent stuff that wouldn't make me hesitant to use the word "crush." There's a bit of a Middle-Grade love triangle in this book as well, but it's done in such a way that makes it obvious where things may eventually go. I really enjoyed the small spatterings of romance through this story. It never detracts from the story and as I said before it's all very innocent blushes of new feelings for the kids involved and so I'm not sure where it'll go or if it will even come to anything before the series comes to a close, but either way it's so far been spectacularly done.
World Building: So I looked back at my review for the first installment in this series and I have no idea what I was thinking. In that review I said there wasn't a lot of world building, however, there's a whole lot of it in both that book and this one. I think where my mind was, was that the author wrote a fantastic 1950's-ish setting but there wasn't a lot of this unique part of this world expanded upon. The origin story of the children is a bit muddy (from what I can remember) and while the makeshift family in the Curiosity House is fantastic, it comes off a bit underwhelming. In this book a lot of those problems are still there, although the world is expanded upon, it feels very isolated to this one installment. It's been a while since I read the previous installment, so maybe there's some mention of the events and people that seem to be introduced in this installment, and if they are I take back what I am going to say, but there's a lot introduced in this book that feels like it deserves some sort of, at the very least casual, mention in the previous installment, otherwise the two stories have a weird unseen division between them. I found the further world building a bit underwhelming for the second book in a trilogy. I was expecting big surprises and twisted revelations but while there were some great twists, which I'll get to in a moment, there wasn't a whole lot of meat to this story. Don't get me wrong it's extremely entertaining, but it just feels lacking as a prominent fixture in this trilogy.
Predictability: As I said above this book does a good job to throw twists in the way of the story. There are a lot of moving parts to this story and because of that, there's a lot of possibilities for where the story can go and what the possible twists could be. That being said there's one twist that while incredibly well concealed, was a tad underwhelming. I was hoping for something more elaborate and again, while the author did do a great job at covering her tracks so the surprise would be a good one, I just wish there was something a bit more complex going on. I know this is a middle-grade book, but even so, there could have been some other facet of the story, some greater plan that could have still been accessible to a younger reading group.
Ending: As seems to be the theme of this story there's a lot to the ending that feels underwhelming, that being said though as the story comes to a close there are some fantastic little surprises that genuinely caught me off guard and helped round out this book just a tad more. The final climax of the story was very well done and had a very cinematic feel to that defining climactic moment, and the cooldown period is where things start to come together again. With a lot of the moving parts to this story out of play, things become clearer and some really interesting red herrings come to light. I did truly like how this story ended in a way that settles things down for a while and there isn't some over the top crazy cliffhanger to make readers go crazy for nearly a year.
I did really enjoy this story, it's a wonderfully written and nicely paced mystery, I just wish it wowed me more and felt a bit more cohesive. It's still a great addition to this trilogy and I'm excited to see where the story will go in the grand finale.