The second installment of Maureen Johnson’s “Shades of London” series “The Madness Underneath” really provided her fans with something to look forward to in the next books.
If I were to seriously criticize one aspect of this book, I would have to address the unexpectedly abrupt ending. Really, it was as if the plot was only barely introduced when we were left with a cliffhanger.
A more minor critique I have is the lack of romantic development between the main characters. In the first book, our hero, Rory Deveaux, begins dating a fellow classmate at the English boarding school, where the ultimate conflict of the story is hosted. Though there were no lasting problems between the two when the book ended, the tension introduced in the sequel was really inevitable, as now Rory has many secrets she cannot share.
This now-implemented issue basically forces Johnson’s audience to focus on a second, previously less-than-pivotal character as a potential love interest for Rory. My issue is not with the change inherently, but rather the impossibly short life span of their relationship. Admittedly, the mutual interest was subtly hinted at throughout, but the real, substantial element lasted for less than a day before a very incontrovertible factor forced it to end.
Maybe for some, this detail would be insignificant. However, for a young-adult novel, the romantic aspects of this book seemed almost neglected.
Despite these two problems, there was also a main element that really stood out. In the first book, the most pressing issue regarding murderous ghosts was resolved in the climax; however, the overlying theme remains intact for the second book, as new ghosts become involved. A new element was introduced, also.
With the addition of a new antagonist (the leader of a cultish, death-evading group) the plot thickens dramatically. I really enjoyed Johnson’s idea for this character because her scheming is almost totally masked until the very end of the story. When her ulterior motives are revealed, the immense potential developments for the next books in the series become rapidly evident.
Of all of Johnson’s work, besides “Thirteen Little Blue Envelopes,” her “Shades of London” series is definitely my favorite.
The entire premise of this book is quite intriguing, incorporating both fantasy and science fiction details as well as really providing a substantial story for avid young-adult readers.
I unreservedly recommend this series to any and everyone. Even if young-adult fiction is not your typical genre of choice, I am certain some aspect of this story will capture your attention.