Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Return of the Emerald Skull

Barnaby Grimes returns in his second action-packed historical mystery. This tick-tock boy is not one to stand aside and watch other people be bullied or mistreated. He is brave, impetuous, clever, and - happily for the reader - not one to turn down a challenge. Even when that challenge involves a school full of boys on the rampage all under the control of a mysterious artifact discovered in the deepest jungles of South America.

Barnaby's adventures in this installment of Stewart and Riddell's beautifully illustrated new series involve ghost ships, mind control, a beautiful young girl with astonishing fighting skills, and a young "cobblestone-creeper," among other things. The book opens with a dramatic hook, as did the first, backtracks to explain the events that led up to the chilling opening scene, and tumbles to a quick resolution. My personal desire for a longer denouement and more time to become acquainted with the secondary characters will probably not be felt by the book's target audience, who will, no doubt, be thrilled by the exhilarating roller-coaster ride.

At any rate, Barnaby is great fun to spend time with, and I am looking forward to the U.S. release of the third book in the series, Legion of the Dead. Riddell and Stewart, not surprisingly, have a creative and entertaining website. Check it out for more information on this as well as their other series - and also to see the style of the wonderful illustrations. You can even try your hand at the highstacking game!

This book counts as a folklore book for the Once Upon a Time III Quest the Second because of the elements of South American folklore, with the jaguar imagery, jungle pyramids, human sacrifices, the emerald skull, and other mysterious artifacts from a lost civilization.

Books in the
Barnaby Grimes series
1. Curse of the Night Wolf
2. Return of the Emerald Skull
3. Legion of the Dead (forthcoming 2010)

Return of the Emerald Skull
(#2 in the Barnaby Grimes series) by Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell (David Fickling Books, 2008)

Also reviewed at:
Ms. Yingling Reads: "This is worth buying if only for this sentence (pg. 11) "Of course, the most famous school rebellion took place a few years earlier, at Enderby Court College for Young Ladies. The Enderby Amazons defeated Dame Cecily Mandrake and her fifty-strong staff of ex-convicts using croquet mallets and feral cats...""


  1. Kiirstin - It really is. :-)

  2. A new series by Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell! Wonderful. I've read a couple of their Edge Chronicle books and enjoyed them. And Chris Riddell was the illustrator of the copy of The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman that I read recently. He is so talented. Am going to see if the library has the first of this new series.

  3. Cath - I had no idea that Riddell had illustrated a copy of The Graveyard Book. I will have to see if I can find a copy of that. I wasn't thrilled with the illustrations in the one I read, as I recall. Have you seen Ottoline and the Yellow Cat? Riddell writes and illustrates that series, and the pictures offer clues to the mystery - they are just wonderful. I'm really looking forward to the next one in that series.

  4. Sounds like a fun series!

  5. Kailana - It is! I'm a sucker for a mix of historical and fantastical, so it's right up my alley. :-)

  6. NG illustrated this copy of The Graveyard Book here on my blog, Darla:


    I thought he did a great job.
    No I don't know Ottoline and the Yellow Cat, will go and look that up later. I'm seeing my grandaughter today so it looks like I might have some books to rec to her.

    Oh and I found that my library has Curse of the Night Wolf but it's out at the moment. I'll keep an eye out for it being returned.

  7. Cath - I remember seeing that on your blog, and now of course it is obvious that it's Riddell's illustrations. I guess that's the UK version? I will look into it. I got my copy at the library, but it is a book I would like to own. I hope you can find Ottoline - I think there are several in the series out in the UK, but we're still waiting (impatiently) for #2 here in the States.

  8. Cute! Love historical YA mysteries :)

  9. Ladytink - This is a good one!


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