phbdPeregrine Harker & the Black Death by Luke Hollands
Release Date: June 3, 2013
Publisher: Sparkling Books
Source: NetGalley
Rating: DNF
Buy It: Amazon


Peregrine Harker is about to learn you’re never too young to die.

London 1908: A secret society stalks the murky streets, a deadly assassin lurks in the shadows and a series of unexplained deaths are linked by a mystery symbol…

When boy-detective Peregrine Harker stumbles across a gruesome murder he sparks a chain of events that drag him on a rip-roaring journey through a world of spluttering gas lamps, thick fog, deadly secrets and dastardly villains.

Every step of Peregrine’s white-knuckle adventure brings him closer to the vile heart of a terrifying mystery – the true story behind the Brotherhood of the Black Death.

Peregrine Harker begins his story by having a terribly cliche dream about saving the Crown Jewels and a damsel in distress. The first chapter is a dream. Don’t let it discourage you. Peregrine reminded me of a Victorian Artemis Fowl, which is kind of funny considering Peregrine is supposed to be fifteen and Artemis begins at eleven or twelve. So Peregrine’s inner monologue is a little immature. I also think maybe Hollands is a little too fond of the comma splice, but it was something I could get around. Plus the book is so short that the action seems to start right away. I thought there was something just a little choppy about the writing, maybe because there was a lot of punctuation just sort of left out, but I know this was an ARC, I don’t think a preteen would necessarily notice, and the story really has a fun beginning. Plus I think the cover is pretty cool.

This story is supposed to be somewhat steampunk, but I know so little about steampunk that I’m not sure I can comment. In the first quarter of the book all we see are some steam cranes, but then a motor car shows up. I have no idea if this is legitimate steampunk or not, but I always liked the idea of clockwork machinery, so it worked for me. There’s a lot of exposition, and a lot of telling instead of showing, but the book was so short that I sort of just let myself get caught up in the action. Two things that stood out to me: one, I was very annoyed by the dialect. It was very… Hollywood. Two, I couldn’t figure out why a fifteen-year-old kid was being tracked down by a millionaire to break a story. Just… why? What are Peregine’s qualifications other than reading penny dreadfuls and having no sense of self-preservation? So for awhile, I suspected that Magnus was manipulating and controlling Peregrine into making conclusions that fit Magnus’ story.

The problem is this story doesn’t really get better. It just continues with its overdone Victorian schtick and eventually it became too much for me and I had to quit reading. I think this could be a hit with so-called “reluctant boy readers,” but for more mature audiences (and I love middle-grade) it just doesn’t really provide the substance. Still, with a little polishing, I think this could be a really intriguing and fun mystery.