I really enjoyed reading the first three books in this series. Yes, they’re for kids, and not exactly the most challenging reading. But what they are is well-written, engaging, quick, and fun to read. I had high hopes for the remaining three books of the series.
Unfortunately, these last books didn’t quite meet my expectations. They followed the same pattern as the first three books, which started to wear on me for a while. The first book deals with a young woman being forced to marry against her will, the second deals with a kidnapping, the third with another missing person. I’m sure there were a great deal of mysteries in 1880s England, but these books all seem to focus on a missing person. I suppose having your 14-year-old protagonist in a book for kids investigate murders is a little untenable. Still, it’s always a missing person, in some form or another. And the answer almost always seems to involve breaking or sending messages in code.
I like the Victorian era setting, and love all the period details and historical facts thrown in. I even enjoy the fact that the books are set in the world of Sherlock and Mycroft Holmes, who Enola spends the first four books outsmarting and avoiding, and the fifth and sixth books attempting to forge bonds with. It all gets wrapped up a little too neatly and easily in the final book. This is a problem with reading material for children, and I’m not sure it should be. It’s a thin line for adult fiction to walk — a concise and neat ending is unbelievable to anyone with real experience in life, whereas a non-concise ending that leaves all the ends loose is about the most annoying thing in the world. Children find it easier to believe in the happy ending, I’m sure, but that doesn’t mean we should always give it to them. Not that the end of this series was all sunshine and daisies, but it was neat and clean and hopeful in a way that I wasn’t sure the characters had earned. Not for the books to be considered realistic, anyway. But, they’re for kids. I am looking at them with my adult eye, but that’s not what they were made for.
I’m glad I read them, but I was unsatisfied by the end. Also, can we marvel at how great the covers for these books are? I love the design. I found some other covers, which I think might have been the UK covers. They are much less cool, and feature a rather ugly pug-nosed girl reminiscent of Pansy Parkinson. She also looks more like 12 than 14, especially considering the fact that Enola passes for an adult for the majority of the books.
These books aren’t life-changing, or instant classics. But they do feature a strong, smart female heroine who is continuously underestimated by her male-dominated acquaintances. If that’s not a good example for girls, I don’t know what is. They are also quick, clever, and entertaining. If you have a little girl, buy them for her.