Review Blog

Jul 30 2013

A very peculiar plague by Catherine Jinks

cover image

City of Orphans, bk 2. Allen & Unwin, 2013. ISBN 9781743313053.
(Age: 10-15) Highly recommended. The second in the City of Orphans series has young Jem Barbary joining up with Alfred the bogler when a spate of bogle attacks finally brings Alfred out of his semi-retirement. Jem once worked as a pick pocket for the evil Sarah Pickles who betrayed him and he is determined to get revenge on her. He is also keen to show his mettle as a bogler's boy but finds that facing a group of bogles is almost as terrifying as facing the evil people from his past.
Once again Jinks has excelled herself in this beautifully atmospheric novel that brings the times of Charles Dickens alive. Full of descriptions of the slums where the poor try to eke out a living, and the affluent world that Birdie, the heroine from the first in the series, now inhabits, the reader is steeped in the life of 19th century London. The building occurring around Newgate Prison is the background for the gathering of bogles in cellars and sewers and it is there that Alfred and Jem face the nightmare of trying to kill them. A glossary at the back of the book gives an explanation of many of the words used that are ones that are true to the times. So realistic is the writing that it is easy to believe that bogles do exist.
Birdie takes a less important role in A very peculiar plague, than she did in A very unusual pursuit, but readers who were wondering what was going on in her life will be satisfied to read that she is still as feisty and as loyal as ever. Jem is a very determined, stubborn boy and it is easy to empathise with him as he tries to be heroic and to find and stop the evil Sarah Pickles, who has destroyed so many lives.
Catherine Jinks' writing is always a joy to read and this story is rich in detail and characterisation. There is a sneak preview of A very singular child, the next in the series, at the end of the book. It stars Ned, another young boy who works with Alfred. Jinks' use of fascinating but different main protagonists in each book ensures that readers will continue to enjoy the series, but will be able to easily pick up each book in the series.
This is an outstanding series that is sure to win accolades and will fascinate the reader who likes historical fantasy, action and adventure.
Pat Pledger

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