Friday, February 17, 2012

Enola Holmes Series Review

Book talk: Enola's mother had always been a bit of an eccentric.  A believer in reform, she raised her daughter to think critically and take care of herself.  Still, Enola is taken by surprise when her mother disappears entirely on her fourteenth birthday.  With her father long dead, Enola's much older brothers are called in to take care of her.  When she learns that they plan to send her to boarding school, fear grips Enola tighter than the corsets the matrons would make her wear night and day.  So she decides to run away and try to make it on her own.  After all, her name spelled backwards is 'alone' and her mother always told her that she'd be able to do very well on her own.  Still, life on the streets of London is far rougher than her countryside upbringing prepared her for.  Even if she survives her freedom is in danger as long as her brothers are searching for her.  She was always in awe of her brother's fame before, but now that she has to evade his grasp she wishes he was anyone but who he is--the famous detective Sherlock Holmes.

Rocks my socks: After finishing the second series of the new BBC Sherlock I was desperate to get my hands on anything else that would let me linger in that world a bit longer.  I'm glad I happened upon this series, which I eagerly gobbled up.  As much as I love Sherlock he can be a bit of a sexist at times, so it was nice to see his views of his sister slowly change and become one of grudging respect over the course of the series.  As a younger sister myself, I relished every moment she outwitted her famous brother.  I also appreciated the view into Victorian London from a woman's perspective and the way Enola was able to decipher clues her brother couldn't because of her knowledge of feminine ways in the deeply gendered society.  Even though I wished there were more books to it, the series concluded in a way that I found satisfying.

Rocks in my socks: The most well rounded characters in the series are definitely the women and the men can seem a bit hollow at times by comparison.

Every book its reader: These books present a bit of a difficulty in recommendation.  They're each very short, but the vocabulary is complex so I'd hesitate to recommend it to struggling readers.  However, I know a lot of kids who can handle complex vocabulary who would be reluctant to pick up a book so short.  Most of the content would be fine for younger grades--Enola specializes in finding lost persons not solving murders so there isn't as much violence as many other mystery series and there's no romance at all.  On the other hand, Springer occasionally feels the need to describe the London streets Enola is traversing and frequently mentions the prostitutes loitering about as a matter of fact and Enola is often attacked.  The books are fast-paced and there is no romantic storyline, but it goes into the details of a woman's life at that time a lot so it might turn off a lot of guys who would otherwise like it.  The Sherlock angle was a big draw for me, but not all young people know who Sherlock is.  I'd give it to fans of Sherlock and those looking for historical or mystery fiction with a strong female presence.

The Enola Holmes Mysteries by Nancy Springer

Buy the first book or check it out today!

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