Sunday, December 23, 2012

The Darkness Dwellers (Kiki Strike #3) by Kristen Miller

The Irregulars are back for a final mission.  Kiki Strike is determined to state her claim on Pokrovia, and then ending the monarchy forever, all before her evil aunt and cousin can claim the throne for themselves, and who will stop at nothing to get Kiki out of the way.  Meanwhile, the other Irregulars are dealing with another mystery of their own.  One which involves proper manners and the catacombs of France.

Well.  This was a bit of a disappointment.  I loved the other Kiki Strike books.  Loved.  They were smart and sassy and well thought out and engaging and really just all-around awesome middle school reads.  It's been so long (five years) since the last one came out, I'd despaired of there being any ending to the story.  So I was all excited when I saw there was going to finally be another one.  But this just felt like Kristen Miller said "All right!  I'll write an ending to the Kiki Strike story if you'll all just leave me alone!" and then she banged it out to be done with it.  The Darkness Dwellers was only OK.   It dragged terribly in some places, and then completely skipped over the part that seems like it should have been the most important.  There were all sorts of side plots going on that seemed unnecessary and then didn't really get resolved.

You'd think the main story would be Kiki traveling to Pokrovia and finding the proof that her evil aunt Livia murdered her parents and put her in jail once and for all.  But it wasn't.  We have Kiki getting kidnapped in Paris, and then drawn into a storyline with the Darkness Dwellers who protect the catacombs of France.  This ties in with another plot going on in New York, where Amelia Beauregard, headmistress of the premier finishing school in New York, hires Betty to come with her to France for what turns out to be an absolutely ridiculous reason (seriously, Kristen Miller?  You couldn't do better than that?) under the pretense of wanting her to be her secretary but actually needing her in the quest to clear her long-dead fiancee's name.

ALSO, Ananka has the total hots for Betty's boyfriend and is kind of trying to make him fall in love with her while Betty's in Paris.  ALSO, Ananka's friend Molly comes back to New York to wage war against Madame Beauregard's finishing school.  ALSO, Oona's twin sister is dinning and dashing all over China town, but everyone thinks it Oona and now she can't go anywhere.

Yeah, there's a lot of stuff going on.  And Kiki discovering the evidence to prove her parent's murders?  What it seemed like all the other books were leading too?  Happened in about three sentences, off stage.  We just hear that she's done it, and everything's worked out.  Meanwhile we the readers have to muck through six different crossover plots, some like Oona's, end suddenly and unsatisfactorily, and some, like the Molly-Madame Beauregard show-down were completely anti-climactic.

Were things left hanging in some cases so the Kristen Miller would have the opportunity to write another Kiki Strike book if she wanted too?  Maybe, although it doesn't seem like she's all that interested.  But maybe.

The first two books are still awesome, and I highly recommended them.  This was disappointing, but at least it's something to wrap things up, even if it wasn't a great wrap-up.

I will say I was glad that Betty got to have an active role.  Betty was always clearly the most awesome.  About time she got people to notice.  

The Darkness Dwellers comes out January 31, 2013.

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