Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Dopple Ganger Chronicles: The First Escape

My daughter picked this book out (with a little urging from me, since I wanted to read it, too) when we were shopping at her school's book fair last month. She is a huge fan of all kinds of books, but she is particularly captivated by graphic novels, and this one looked like fun. It is what I call a graphic novel hybrid - part comic book panels, part straight text with illustrations, and this format lends itself nicely to the Gothic, atmospheric nature of this particular tale.

Fourteen-year-old identical twins Sadie and Saskia Dopple are residents of Isambard Dunstan's School for Wayward Children. Their mother dropped them off there years earlier, saying she'd be back to get them, but she has never returned. They are not happy there, as the school is run by an overbearing headmistress - but the girls are rather bratty themselves, constantly causing trouble in the school.

When one one of the twins is adopted by a strange but wealthy woman, but the other is left behind, the girls are heartbroken by the separation. Saskia is taken away to a spooky old mansion where odd things are happening. Sadie gets into trouble at school, and when matters come to a head she flees, aided by fellow teen Erik Morrissey Ganger (yes, he's named after the musician), who was abandoned by his father, a skilled thief, at the school years earlier. As Sadie and Erik, on the run from the school, stumble into one dangerous situation after another as they try to get to Saskia, Saskia discovers a truly heinous scheme afoot in her new home.

This action-packed adventure novel is packed with kid appeal, from the full-color illustrations of the comic book sections to the whimsical fonts and creative presentation of the text portions of the book. The story does not sacrifice form for content, however; the plot itself is compelling. At first the twins are not terribly sympathetic characters - but they certainly are interesting. And they are soon up to their necks in trouble, and they rise to the occasion, using the talents they've learned as troublemakers, in an attempt to foil a most dastardly plot.

There are lots of fun, Gothic touches along the way: a mysterious, forbidden portrait covered by a cloth so that no one can see it; a ghostly woman who teaches Saskia manners in her new home; a maniacal magician with a bizarre contraption in his basement - what's not to like? The story ends with a satisfying conclusion, but also leaves a few juicy loose ends so readers will be eager to move on to the next installment in the series, The Secret of Indigo Moon.

My only complaint about this book is that it is not bound very well. Already several pages have fallen out of my copy, which has been treated very gently. That is a shame, and unfortunately it is a situation that occurs more and more frequently with books these days. My library system does not own this series, and I hesitate to recommend that we purchase it, because it is hardly worth buying books that will have to be mended - or discarded - so quickly, particularly given our current budget crisis.

Also by G.P. Taylor: Mariah Mundi: The Midas Box

The Dopple Ganger Chronicles: The First Escape
(#1 in the Dopple Ganger Chronicles) by G.P. Taylor; illustrated by Daniel Boultwood, Joseph Sapulich and Stephen Vosloo (Tyndale House Publishers, 2008)

Also reviewed at:
Becky's Book Reviews: "I thought it had a very promising start. The writing, the descriptions, the humor. But by the end of the book, I was finding it a bit tiresome"

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