Review: “The Madness Underneath (Shades of London #2)” by Maureen Johnson

15721638Title: “The Madness Underneath (Shades of London #2)”

Author: Maureen Johnson

Genre: YA contemporary, Urban Fantasy, Paranormal

Publication Date: February 26, 2013 (Penguin – North America)

Source: NetGalley Review Copy

Summary: After her near-fatal run-in with the Jack the Ripper copycat, Rory Devereaux has been living in Bristol under the close watch of her parents. So when her therapist suddenly suggests she return to Wexford, Rory jumps at the chance. But Rory’s brush with the Ripper touched her more than she thought possible: she’s become a human terminus, with the power to eliminate ghosts on contact. She soon finds out that the Shades—the city’s secret ghost-fighting police—are responsible for her return. The Ripper may be gone, but now there is a string of new inexplicable deaths threatening London. Rory has evidence that the deaths are no coincidence. Something much more sinister is going on, and now she must convince the squad to listen to her before it’s too late.

☆: 4/5 stars – Definitely need book 3 now!

Review: While “The Madness Underneath” isn’t quite as action-packed as “The Name of the Star”, it’s still a very excellent follow-up and what looks to be a middle book in what might be a trilogy. At least, after that ending, there better be another book coming. Or else. Anyway, “Madness Underneath” is far more quiet and subversive when it comes to Rory and the post-Ripper incident aftermath, in a way that I really, really enjoyed. If you enjoyed book one, you simply must continue your journey with Rory and the gang in “The Madness Underneath”.

The pacing in this book is pretty quiet, so hardcore action fans that loved the amount of frenetic movement that was in book one? You might be a bit disappointed. For me, it was more fascinating than disappointing – here we see Rory trying to heal from the events from book one, trying to deal with how she’s changed, and how to re-start her life at Wexford. What I thought that Johnson did at the end of book one that was very clever was that she took Rory’s figurative character transformational journey and made it literal. That’s always a very risky move, but it almost always pays off if done correctly. And Johnson did.

So the Rory we see here in book two has literally been transformed. She’s almost a completely different person in so many ways. She does a lot of things the old Rory probably wouldn’t have. And yet, she’s still the same girl we fell in love with from book one, struggling to figure out who and what she is. Aside from werewolves, I’m pretty sure that Johnson’s creation of Rory is one of the most apt metaphors for young adulthood (not just one’s teen years, but up until age 30) – you turn into something you weren’t before, but you’re also stranded between the past you, the current you, and the future you. A lot of this book is Rory fighting with herself in terms of which of those Rorys she wants to be. And while I absolutely love that in books – a lot of inner worldbuilding goes into that inner fighting – it doesn’t make for much explosive external action. This book is a quiet one, filled with a lot of “self work”/exploration.
However, there’s LOTS of action at the end. Almost to the point where it felt cruel that Johnson was holding it back from us for so much of the story. But at the same time, I’m glad she did. It makes everything that Rory’s trying to figure out all the more meaningful, and the emotional payoff all the larger. The external worldbuilding doesn’t get much more work – we already know our way around Johnson’s London and Wexford and everywhere in between. It’s the new locations and characters that add to the world here, both internally and externally, and the internal world is what gets the most work. Now I finally have this feeling that Rory’s complete as a character, and with the insane events that happen at the end of this book, it finally feels like she’s moved out of self work purgatory and is finally ready to move on with her life.

The sensory language and character building were more or less flawless, so I won’t go into those. I did want to know more about Jane, more about the history of the squad in terms of if anything had happened before like with Rory, and so forth, but I’m hoping we’ll get that in book three. And oh, that ending. I won’t spoil you guys too much, but let me just warn you: don’t get attached to any of the characters. Just…don’t. And the book may seem meandering in pace, but things really pull together and make sense within the last fifty pages or so. So have patience with it, because the emotional payoff? It’s totally worth it.

Final verdict? This is a more quiet, subversive effort when compared to book one, but that doesn’t make it any less awesome. But now I really, REALLY want book three. “The Madness Underneath” is out now from Penguin in North America, so be sure to check it out when you get the chance!


3 thoughts on “Review: “The Madness Underneath (Shades of London #2)” by Maureen Johnson

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  3. Such a good review, you nailed it when talking about Rory’s character transformation! I reviewed the book recently also and while I managed to pinpoint how much I liked the way MJ dealt with her anxieties I couldn’t quite articulate the identity crisis-y bit of it. I’m really looking forward to the next book. THAT ENDING. Woof.

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