Have you ever read a book that just feels like it's trying too hard? Peregrine Harker and the Black Death (Goodreads | Amazon) wants to channel early 1900s serialized adventure drama. It reminds me a lot of early radio drama, where it's all bang, sizzle and sound effects without enough of a plot to back-up the story. And while the voice is different, it's a little too punch-you-in-the-face obvious for my liking.
"If you were to deny the humble British labourer his morning cup there would be riots in the street of every major city from here to Rangoon; and, in a few months, I believe that very tragedy is about to happen. There's trouble brewing and no mistake." (Note the tea pun, which is acknowledged in the book but still pretty dreadful pun-wise)Also everything just happens too easily in this book. There are too many coincidences and happenstances. All these EXCITING DRAMATIC MISADVENTURES are thrown at the main character and of course he always survives against all odds.
"It was purely by chance that she that very evening had decided to visit the Place des Pyramides and in particular the Hotel Regal. She'd caught sight of me..."Almost everything that happens is purely by chance, a coincidence or because of a "sudden urge" to walk. To an extent some of these are explained by the end, but it's too little too late.
The characters never feel like people, more just walking types. I was frustrated by the protagonist Peregrine Parker's tendency to believe anything anybody says, while all the time thinking himself exceedingly clever. It's hard to get behind a main character so annoyingly thick. Louisa also feels more like a type than a person, the BRIGHT, STUNNING, LOVELY young lady (who still gets weepy and swoons in case you think she has heroine potential). Louisa is smarter than Peregrine and had potential, but in the end I found her just as unsatisfying as a character.
For a younger audience this book may be very enjoyable, but it lacks the nuances that make the difference between acceptably good middle grade and great middle-grade.
FTC Disclosure: I received a free e-book via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.