It has been over a year since Lucy Carlyle joined Lockwood & Co. and things have started to look up since their success at Combe Carey Hall.
When the intrepid trio is tangled up in another mystery, this time concerning a stolen malignant mirror called the Bone Glass, matters begin to unravel.
The Bone Glass seems to have a strange effect on George. Lockwood rashly enters them in a competition with Kipps’ team to see who can get the mirror first. Lucy now converses with the spirit of skull in the jar – but she doesn’t know if she can trust it. The skull tells her that it can help them solve the case, but also warns that her leader and friend Lockwood is deceitful.
Worse yet, there are other, more sinister, forces after the Bone Glass. Racing against time and with their reputation on the line, Lockwood & Co must find the mirror and stop it from falling into the wrong hands.
Humor and imaginative worlds have always been hallmarks of Jonathan Stroud’s books, and the Whispering Skull is no different. By equal turns funny and scary, it was a pleasure to read.
The amazing trio of the Screaming Staircase – Lucy, Lockwood, and George – are back and as funny, mysterious, and intelligent, (respectively) as ever. Though they are no longer facing crushing financial troubles, their friendship, loyalty, and skill are test to their limits in the Whispering Skull.
The focus here is their friendship and how well, or not well, they operate as a team. Lockwood is a solid leader: brave and heroic, yet impulsive and far too secretive. George is a brilliant researcher and a stalwart friend, but his unrestrained curiosity endangers him and others around him. Lucy is the balance between them, but still struggles to find her own voice and opinions. Their complexity is wonderful and you can really see how their personalities sometimes clash but still somehow work out in the end.
The setting, though not as evocative as the first time around, is fully realized and Stroud is well at ease in it, navigating the familiar and strange with mastery and imagination.
The premise is very good, and the mystery behind the Bone Glass scary without being too gory or frightening.
The dialogue, which is usually stand-out in Stroud’s work, was very funny, and there were quite a few memorable jokes.
Despite being an overall good book, the Whispering Skull suffers from an unfocused and meandering plot. The premise itself is excellent, but Stroud doesn’t do nearly enough with it. Much of the beginning is spent in the normal humdrum of life at Lockwood & Co, which isn’t uninteresting, but isn’t exactly riveting either. Many reveals are too late to the party and though Stroud sows a few intriguing seeds for future volumes, it isn’t enough to make up for the lack of revelations here.
Character is a bit on the weak side, too. Lucy, the protagonist, is frequently ineffective and almost never influences the plot or other characters. I felt that Stroud underused her greatly, which was a real shame since she has so much potential. Even Lockwood and George were more pawns to unconvincing plot contrivances than key players.
Though not as flawless as its predecessor, the Whispering Skull is a funny and scary read that capitalizes well enough on its superb cast of characters and fascinating world.
Get the Whispering Skull on Book Depository.
For more excellent MG book recommendations, go to Shannon Messenger's blog.
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