Book Reviews

Review: “The Shadow Cabinet,” Maureen Johnson

July 18, 2016
Review: “The Shadow Cabinet,” Maureen JohnsonThe Shadow Cabinetby Maureen Johnson
Series: Shades of London #3
Published by Speak on February, 2015
Genres: Ghosts, Mystery
Pages: 376
Book Depository | Bookworld | Booktopia

Rory and her friends are reeling from a series of sudden and tragic events. While racked with grief, Rory tries to determine if she acted in time to save a member of the squad. If she did, how do you find a ghost? Also, Rory’s classmate Charlotte has been kidnapped by Jane and her nefarious organization. Evidence is uncovered of a forty-year-old cult, ten missing teenagers, and a likely mass murder. Everything indicates that Charlotte’s in danger, and it seems that something much bigger and much more terrible is coming.

Time is running out as Rory fights to find her friends and the ghost squad struggles to stop Jane from unleashing her spectral nightmare on the entire city. In the process, they'll discover the existence of an organization that underpins London itself—and Rory will learn that someone she trusts has been keeping a tremendous secret.

The Shadow Cabinet, while not as good as The Name of the Star, was remarkably more satisfying than The Madness Underneath. New characters and an interesting plot made the third instalment of Maureen Johnson’s Shades of London an enjoyable read. Spoilers in the full review.

 “But when we live, we believe that we have a right to everything in the universe – that everything is ours to touch.”

Even though I rated this book the same as The Madness Underneath, this one was reasonably better than its predecessor. Although it didn’t live up to the suspense and mystery brought on in The Name of the Star, The Shadow Cabinet did a pretty good job of delivering a fast-paced and intriguing mystery that kept me reading. I managed to finish this book in one night, which is saying something.

Rory, although still not even remotely close to being a character I like, was a bit easier to deal with this time around, even though she managed to constantly disobey orders (again). Her relationship with all the members of the Shades (including Thorpe) were solidified and her romance with Stephen began to take a little more shape.

The last book’s cliffhanger wasn’t resolved quickly, rather it was the background ‘mystery’ for the first half of The Shadow Cabinet. I had my predictions to what would happen to Stephen (I had my money on him being a ghost, and Rory not being able to ever touch him again with her terminus powers…) so I was glad that the resolution to his fate was something different than what I was expecting– and something that will hopefully provide a good plotline for the next (and final) book coming out in 2018.

“So you’re Rory,” Sid said, “and…well, he’s handsome but not chatty. Very stone-faced. Like the white cliffs of Dover.”

The Shadow Cabinet, despite its name, focuses moreso on Jane Quaint and her cult-like group than the mysterious organisation revealed later on in the book. Obsessed with the protective stones that guard London, Jane is determined to get her hands on a stone called ‘The Oswulf Stone’, which will bring back her mentors from the 1970’s – nefarious cult-leader twins, Sid and Sadie. Although I enjoyed this plot (it began in The Madness Underneath), Sid and Sadie seem to be the ‘big bad’, and I wish some hint of them had been included from the start in The Name of the Star. More and more it’s feeling as if The Name of the Star was a standalone book, then this series came after it. They are completely different, really.

I can’t help but get the feeling that Maureen Johnson really wanted to write a Jack the Ripper story (which she did) and then got a deal for a series, then had to come up with something else to keep it going.

Certain highlights of this book include; the introduction of Freddie – a new girl with the sight who joins the Shades, the quick jaunt to Stonehenge and Rory finally coming clean to her Wexford friends about what she’s been up to.

I am enjoying this series, but I would have appreciated a bit more structure. At times it feels as if Shades of London doesn’t have a clear direction, or that it’s a mish-mash of different ghostly elements. It was only in this book (Book three) that we even learnt about the protective stones or the Shadow Cabinet… which seems majorly important.

I will be reading the last book (I’m invested now) and while these books are quick reads and incredibly fast-paced, certain things are lacking for me to really rate them higher than I have.


About Maureen Johnson

Maureen knew from an early age she wanted to be a writer. She went to high school at an all-girls' Catholic school and graduated from University of Delaware with a degree in writing. She now lives and writes in New York City. Many of the adventures Maureen's characters face in her books are based on real-life stories. Maureen has traveled all over Europe, and is a Secret Sister to vlog brothers Hank and John Green.

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