Both Jackaby and Beastly Bones were chosen by the Young Adult Library Association as top young adult picks of 2015 & 2016. It’s easy to see why- both books are fun, fast paced, and perfect for reluctant readers. Jackaby is an extraordinary detective. He can sense supernatural clues, like a urban fantasy version of Sherlock. These books have broad appeal for both urban fantasy fans as well as historical fiction devotees, as the setting of both is in colonial America.
Jackaby centers around Abigail Rook, a headstrong transplant from England who is determined to make her way in the world without her parents’ help and Jackaby, the titular character, who solves mysteries because he can see realities that others can’t.
Ritter introduces the reader to a world that feels very realistic and mundane, then, after a few quick chapters, turns that premise on its head. In that way, it reminded me of The Quick by Lauren Owen but with much less of a build up. The mystery in Jackaby wasn’t all that “mysterious” but it was engaging.
Beastly Bones, like Jackaby, is not mysterious in the least (so not recommended for serious mystery readers), but the characterizations are great. Jackaby is amazing, just like in the previous book, and Abigail Rook, the narrator, is so much fun too.
“Miss Rook,” he said, “the greatest figures in history are never the ones who avoid failure, but those who march chin-up through countless failures, one after the next, until they come upon the occasional victory.” pg 183, (ebook version) Beastly Bones
“So often,” Jackaby said, “people think that when we arrive at a crossroads, we can choose only one path, but- as I have often and articulately postulated- people are stupid. We’re not walking the path. We are the path. We are all of the roads and all of the intersections. Of course you can choose both.” pg 130, (ebook version) Beastly Bones
“We are the path.” I wish more young adult books had passages like that. I suppose that you could pick up a John Green book like A Fault in Our Stars and find that same type of lyrical phrase, but I haven’t (yet) found another young adult author that writes with the innate beauty of William Ritter.
I’d especially recommend these books for fans of the BBC television show, Sherlock. Jackaby is arrogant, headstrong, and very much like Cumberbatch’s brilliant character. Some read alikes that you may also enjoy are The Iron Druid Chronicles by Kevin Hearne (urban fantasy geared towards a more adult audience, but Atticus also deals with a reality that others can’t perceive) or Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children series by Ransom Riggs (soon to be a major motion picture, directed by Tim Burton).
Thanks for reading! ~Heidi
Portions of this review have appeared on Heidi’s blog.