Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place: The Hidden Gallery by Maryrose Wood

The Incorrigible children, Alexander, Beowulf and Cassiopeia, are staying in London while Ashton Place is repaired from that disastrous Christmas ball of Lady Constance Ashton.  Of course, their governess, Penelope Lumley, will be accompanying them.  Penelope is thrilled at the thought of all the wonderfully educational things London will offer the Incorrigibles, and the chance of seeing her dear, former headmistress of Swanburne Academy for Poor Bright Females, Miss Mortimer.  But almost immediately after leaving Ashton Place, strange things begin to happen.  From gypsy prophesies to hidden rooms, Penelope fears the children might be in danger again.

Much like the first book, The Hidden Gallery was hysterical.  Did you like Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate EventsThe Incorrigible Children series is wonderfully Snicketesque.  That dry, matter-of-fact, tongue-in-cheek, wandering off on tangents way of storytelling.  I love it.  It is not for everyone.  I think that if you like British comedy, you'll also like books like this.  If you don't, I'm not sure.

In this second volume, the plot thickens.  Considerably.  The Incorrigible children had been raised by wolves and taken in by Lord and Lady Ashton, although we're not sure why, as Lord Ashton has no interest in them and Lady Ashton totally hate them and blames them for everything.  They are cared for by our heroine, the plucky governess Penelope.  In The Hidden Gallery, Penelope begins to piece together the Incorrigibles' confusing background.  Things become more and more confusing the more she learns.  But Penelope is a Swanburne girl and Sawnburne girls are curious, resourceful and determined and she'll get to the bottom of it sooner or later.

I love how the children are a combination of hanging onto their wolf-like characteristics (they have a tendency to drool, chase squirrels, and add "awoo" to the ends of words), but they're also learning Latin and about the Peloponnesian War and randomly come up with things that show they're considerably smarter than most of the people around them who think they're little savages.  Penelope believes in setting standards high, so who cares if they have a tendency to howl at the moon?  She sends them off to fetch their protractors and graph paper.

Also, the art is just perfect.

Spoilers!  Sort of.

While I loved this one just as much as the first, I was kind of surprised the turn it was taking toward the end.  While we still don't really know what's going on, we have a lot more pieces and it seems like something supernatural is afoot.  I was startled, and kind of annoyed by this.  I guess I just don't associate magic with these kinds of books.  There's certainly an unrealistic aspect about them, but it isn't fantastic or supernatural.  So that threw me a bit.  I'm not totally sure where it's going, but I think I'm going to be disappointed if it ends up involving werewolves.

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