MURDER. SPIES. EXPLOSIONS. REVENGE.
Peregrine Harker is about to learn you’re never too young to die.
London 1908: A secret society stalks the murky streets, a deadly assassin lurks in the shadows and a series of unexplained deaths are linked by a mystery symbol…
When boy-detective Peregrine Harker stumbles across a gruesome murder he sparks a chain of events that drag him on a rip-roaring journey through a world of spluttering gas lamps, thick fog, deadly secrets and dastardly villains.
Every step of Peregrine’s white-knuckle adventure brings him closer to the vile heart of a terrifying mystery – the true story behind the Brotherhood of the Black Death.
For those who have been crying out for more “boy” books in Young Adult and Middle Grade, here’s one for you. Peregrine Harker is very much a boy’s adventure novel. It’s a fast paced read, focusing on the adventures of the title character as he uses his intrepid journalistic skills to uncover a plot bound up in tea and smuggling. There are chases, rescues, twists, and a pretty satisfying resolution that gives readers the idea that more may be coming from Harker and company.
The novel is written in the Victorian/Edwardian style of adventure books. If you’re a fan of steampunk, this should appeal to you as well—there’s some gadgetry going on, not to mention an amazing car (with a sort of driver/butler/bodyguard), and a few steampunkish tropes that pop up to give the book an “out of time” feel. There’s a bit of the penny dreadful in the novel as well, what with a damsel (not usually in distress as she rescues the hero quite often) who is to be married off against her will to some ne’er-do-well who is the sworn enemy of the hero.
Reading it I was reminded of Mark Twain’s Adventures of Tom Sawyer and of Alan Moore’s League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. A strange mashup, I know, but that’s what hit me when I would put the book down. It makes it hard to categorize. I was also reminded of Kim Newman’s Anno Dracula, but I think that had to do with the Victorian references.
A warning about tone and language: Peregrine Harker reads like a throwback novel, so the word choices and narrative voice may be initially off-putting, especially if you are used to reading Harry Potter or Percy Jackson. Give it a chance, though, because the story really is engaging and the language fits the time perfectly. That’s part of what makes the world so immersive.
The story is well told and blasts along at a good clip, with some truly fun action scenes. At base, it is a detective story and the mystery is engaging and fun with the right amount of menace. I enjoyed the secondary characters more than Peregrine himself, as sometimes he seemed more like a piece that got us into the action with the really interesting people. Oh the whole, I’d recommend this to anyone who enjoys steampunk and historical fiction with a detective bent.
Three Jennifer Lawrences.