The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Aurora (Rory) is starting school in London. And just as she starts, there’s a spate of murders in London – all of which echo the work of Jack The Ripper. The small problem is that Rory’s seen the prime suspect – and she’s the only one who did see him … or could.
Sometimes I read very cynically. I read, and I think oh, fine, there’s this girl, and fine, she’s different, like everyone else is in these sorts of books, she’s got something special about that, where’ve I read that before, oh here’s her quietly quirky bff, and really, would they abbreviate her name like that and oh yeah, whatever, male interest.
I continued reading in this sort of cynically jaded manner and then I started drinking in the pages and I sort of realised something. I realised that I had to eat my words because The Name of The Star is really, really good. And I realised this for one key reason.
I did not doubt this book any longer.
That’s the gift Johnson has here, she pulls you past your issues and your cynicism and all the way into a tightly wound, unnervingly sharp and flipping impressive boarding-school meets ghosty-underbelly-of-London book. I was impressed. She got me. She got me to the extent that I actually just sat down and refused to move until I finished it.
The Name of the Star is genuinely unnerving without being crude or unbelievable. Johnson holds it, very finely at times, on the knife-edge of genuine horror and it’s impossible not to feel chilled when you read these pages. It’s all too easy in books of this nature to be exuberant with your horror and your gore but Johnson handles it all with a skill and restraint that is really impressive.
Her world-building as well is epic, believable and done with a sort of impressively convincing and solid talent. You believe this world because it’s so very true. It’s rooted in a very real context and one that seems all too plausible.
If an ending has me reading it and going “YES!” then that’s a very good thing indeed. If a book has me reading it and thinking “If I get published, I’ll be near her on the shelf” and that resulting in a huge grin, then that’s a very good thing. And if a book has me burbling as I read the review, still a little bit giddy after reading it, then that’s a very good thing indeed.
I’m sold. Massively.
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