I read the first book in this series a couple of years ago, and here’s a recap of my very brief review:
The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place: The Mysterious Howling by Maryrose Wood is the first in a series about three children who were raised by wolves. The story, which features governess Penelope Lumley, a fifteen year old graduate of the Swanburne Academy for Poor Bright Females, is rather cute and fun, but it ends practically in mid-sentence with most of its questions unanswered. The next book in the series, The Hidden Gallery, will be in stores Feb 22, 2011. You may want to wait for it and then sneak a peek at the ending to see if the words “to be continued” are again the (non)ending, if that sort of thing bothers you as it does me. These books look to be similar in tone and attitude to Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events.
I must give a disclaimer here and tell you that many questions are still, in this fourth book, largely unanswered. However, since I went into this fourth book with the expectation that it would be interrupted and incomplete, I was not disappointed. There was a happy ending and a defeat for the villains of this episode in the lives of the three Incorrigibles, even though the larger questions about where they came from, where Miss Lumley came from, and how they will all find their place in the world were left hanging.
Running jokes, taken quite seriously in a Victorian sort of way, about iambic pentameter and poetics in general, the art of rhetoric, the care of orphans, wolves and chickens, and other timely topics were the main source of entertainment in reading this story. The Incorrigible children are incorrigible, wolfish, and quite intelligent. Miss Lumley is resourceful and brave. And the villain of the piece, Judge Quinzy, is perfectly villainous. Sprinkled throughout the book are references to the founder of the Swanburne Academy for Poor Bright Females, Agatha Swanburne, who is regrettably deceased, but who left to the school and its students and teachers a huge store of wise and pithy sayings, proverbs and bits of wisdom that serve them all well as they navigate the vicissitudes of life and education.
The series is worth starting and continuing, if you like Snicket-like stories and if you’re willing to be patient with the unanswered questions. I believe the books are getting better as the series goes along, and I’ve come to terms with the incompleteness of the plot.
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This book is also nominated for a Cybil Award, but the views expressed here are strictly my own and do not reflect or determine the judging panel’s opinions.