Thursday, March 22, 2012

Devil's Kitchen By Alison Deluca

Once again Alison DeLuca hits the ground running in the opening chapters of 'Devil's Kitchen', the second book in 'The Crown Phoenix Series' and the story never stops moving until the last page. While this book is a second novel in a series, `Devil's Kitchen' is written in such a way that it is a stand-alone novel.

In the first book of the series `The Night Watchman Express', we met Miriam, an unhappy young girl who was orphaned when her wealthy industrialist father dies. With no other family, her father's business partners, the Marchpanes, become her guardians. The Marchpanes immediately move into Miriam's house, and take over her father's rooms. (Mrs. Marchpane is deliciously evil.) They make their attempt to gain full control of Miriam's money and her father's company. In book one, Miriam's adventures lead her and Simon, the Marchpane's son to captivity on the train known as the Night Watchman's Express. In this tale, their stories are picked up right where they left off in book one.

The book opens with Miriam and Simon on the terrifying train known as the Night Watchman Express. She is immediately thrown into a prison, the infamous `Devil's Kitchen' and forced to labor in horrible conditions. There are the requisite nasty, cruel people there, but there are also many characters who are kind, caring people.

Miriam's strength and courage make both friends and enemies for her, and her resourcefulness and courage make for a great adventure. Simon also is forced to find his courage and his strength and use his wits to survive the situation that he finds himself in.

Simon is also held captive, in a prison of a very different sort, but one that is a prison nonetheless.

Her former governess, Mana is SO much more than she appears to be on the surface. Mana, her devoted aide Kyoge and Simon's friend Neil return to London for the express purpose of rescuing both Miriam and Simon. They concoct an elaborate scheme which does not go exactly as they planned.

All of the characters are clearly drawn, and the threads of the story are woven seamlessly through each of the protagonist's stories to make a wonderful fantasy adventure.

Just as in the first book of the series, the story is told almost as if it were a fairy tale, but it has a gritty steampunk quality that makes it a perfect rainy weekend read. There is danger, there is darkness, and suspense; there is a serious good vs. evil plot, and sometime evil is not as evil as it wants to be. I found that I was thinking about the characters at the end, and wondering what was going to happen next. This story captured my interest from page one of book one, and kept me turning the pages as fast as I could all the way through it to the end of book two. I enjoyed it immensely, and I am dying for book three!

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