Rebel Fire – Young Sherlock #2

Rebel Fire

Author: Andre Lane

Publication: 2011, Farrar, Straus & Giroux

Pages: 368

Overall Rating: bth_4-star-rating_zps38e772a0[1]

Rating for Action: bth_45_zps06f87659[1]

Quantity of Action: bth_4-star-rating_zps38e772a0[1]

Age Category: 9-12

Brief Summary: Sherlock’s tutor, Amyus Crowe, reveals that he works with with the famed Pinkerton detective agency and came to England in part to search for John Wilkes Booth – the man who assassinated President Lincoln.  According to Crowe, Booth escaped justice by faking his death and fled to the UK.  Sherlock naturally tries to assist Crowe by searching for Booth on his own, but the search turns deadly.  He soon finds himself on his way to America, caught up in an insidious and plot to revive the Confederacy.  

Age of Main Character: 14

What I Liked the Most: Lane continues his tradition of providing a great mix of action and intellect.  Sherlock can fight and think his way out of most any situation, and he can piece together minor clues to follow the trail – which in this case means finding the men who have kidnapped his friend, Matty.

In this addition to the series, Lane has provided an extra touch of fun by giving us three distinct settings, and he does a fantastic job of bringing each one to life.  We start out in Farnham, the town where Sherlock lives in England.  But from there the action moves to a trans-Atlantic steam ship, where we get to experience life as a first class passenger while also heading into the bowels of the ship where the coal is shoveled and the steam turbines kept running.  And from there it’s on to 1870’s New York City and a train down the Mid –Atlantic coast.  It’s a fascinating slice of late 18th century life.

Finally, Lane has given us a great villain in Duke Balthazar.  Few villains can rival him for the sheer ‘yuck’ factor, and between his terrifying animal menagerie and his insane plot to revive the Confederacy there’s more than enough to keep Sherlock busy.

What I Liked the Least: All too often, in the middle of an action scene that should have had the characters panicking – or at least so overcome with adrenaline that they found it hard to think straight – Sherlock and his friends are able to remain unnaturally calm, delivering easy banter as they work through their situation and come up with a rational solution.  The scenes themselves are very well done – and once the rational discussion is over, Lane is able to move into some swift, heart-pounding action – but I found their calm approach a little hard to take seriously.

I was also disappointed by the climax.  It seemed far too easy – especially when compared to the previous Young Sherlock book.  The villain – who comes across as wonderfully scary earlier in the book – hardly puts up a fight.  Worse yet, Sherlock takes some actions that felt morally ambiguous at best.  He clearly believes he’s doing the right thing, but what he does could just as easily have cost more lives than it saved.  And yet, there are no consequences and everything works out perfectly in the end.  I’m sorry if this sounds vague.  I don’t want to give too much away.  But given his strong moral stance, and his choice of actions, it felt like some negative repercussions would have been in order.

How Good was the Action? While the final action scene felt disappointing, the rest were fantastic.  There are more than enough near death experiences to go around, and, as with the last book in the series, Lane does an amazing job of weaving heart-pounding blow-by-blow detail together with taut emotions and well-paced action to create some truly memorable sequences.  There’s one in the hot, claustrophobics bowels of a steam ship that you won’t soon forget.

How Engaging was the Story? In some way this story felt lighter than Death Cloud.  The case progressed a little too fast for my taste – despite an ocean voyage that seemed to drag at times.  Still, Sherlock is such a fun character it’s hard not to get caught up in the action, and I loved following along as he tried to figure out what John Wilkes Booth was being used for.  I only wish Lane had given Matty and Virginia as big a role in this book as they had in Death Cloud.  Both characters felt under-utilized this time around.  

Overall Assessment: Rebel Fire is a good addition to the Young Sherlock series.  While it did feel a bit lighter than the first book, it’s still a fun romp with some fantastic action sequences, a frightening villain, and a first class leading character.  An all-around solid read.

Profanity: None

Sex: None

Violence: As with the previous Young Sherlock Holmes novel, there is violence and people do get killed.  Sherlock himself is responsible, at least indirectly, for some of those deaths.  But the violence isn’t bloody and each incident takes a psychological toll on Sherlock.

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