The Shadow Cabinet: Shades of London, Book 3

Book review by
Carrie R. Wheadon, Common Sense Media
The Shadow Cabinet: Shades of London, Book 3 Book Poster Image
Nail-biting page-turner jolts ghost series back to life.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Each book in the series offers some information about London and its environs, history, and geography, including talk of the devastating smog incident in 1952; descriptions of Highgate Cemetery, near Stonehenge, and Marble Arch; and talk of the London river system. There's also a discussion about the Eleusinian Mysteries from Greek mythology, Demeter, Persephone, Hades, and Hecate, plus a look back at cults with mentions of the Jonestown Massacre and Charles Manson. 

Positive Messages

Overcoming trauma is a big theme in the series. So is dealing with the personal cost of keeping secrets from those you love. Since ghosts are front and center, with some in distress, there's plenty to ponder about the soul's journey and all the explanations as to why ghosts do or don't exist. In The Shadow Cabinet, we also get to wonder why those who are hell-bent on being immortal in one way or another value other human lives so little.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Rory remains a very brave character who will do anything for those she loves (although she's pretty bad about calling her worried parents). She's so focused on saving someone close to her, though, that she puts many others at risk. 

Violence

Opening flashback scene shows 10, possibly 12, people poisoned in an occult ritual. A few more deaths, from stabbing and snapped necks. Some people are knocked unconscious, kidnapped and tied up, and drugged. A vengeful ghost tries to set Rory on fire. Mentions of how each character with the "sight" got that way through near-death experiences: being attacked and left for dead, a near-hanging, a near-electrocution, choking, a car accident. Talk of the Manson and Jonestown cults and the deaths that resulted. 

Sex

Some kissing and a hint that twins are incestuous.

Language

A handful of curses, the worst being "s--t" and "bulls--t," plus "dumbass," "pissed," "hell," "dick," "ass," and "half-assed."

Consumerism

Coke gets a couple mentions, as do expensive car brands, Jaguar especially. Plus IKEA and M&M's.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Some celebratory drinking at a bar; characters are young, but all are of age in the United Kingdom. Some more college-age drinking and smoking at a pub, plus a mention that pot was smoked in occult circles. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Shadow Cabinet is the third book in the Shades of London mystery series. Although the first two books focused more on Jack the Ripper and ghosts, Book 3 dives headlong into the occult. The first flashback scene shows 10, possibly 12, people poisoned in a creepy ceremony. A few more people are murdered suddenly with a knife and snapped necks, and others are knocked unconscious, drugged, or kidnapped. Talk of death and how people died or nearly died is pretty constant. As in the first two books in the series, the rest of the content is pretty mild, with only a little strong language (the worst is "s--t"), a little kissing, and some older teen drinking and smoking. We also get more of a feel for London as the series goes on with a visit to Highgate Cemetery and the Marble Arch.

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What's the story?

Leaving Stephen in the hospital is hard for Rory. She'd just kissed him the night before and then he was gone. But he shouldn't be completely gone to Rory. She should be able to find his ghost. She and her sighted friends Boo and Callum start desperately looking for any sign of him, but Thorpe, Stephen's uptight boss, halts Rory's part in the search. He reminds Rory that Jane, the kidnapper Stephen rescued her from, is still out there and she needs to hide. Jane still has Rory's friend Charlotte, and with talk of strange occult rituals they know they have little time to find her alive.

Is it any good?

After a "recommend to all your friends" start to the Shades of London series with The Name of the Star, Book 2 flagged a bit. Author Maureen Johnson killed off a pretty great bad guy in Book 1, and Book 2 was missing that all-important strong adversarial force. Great news for THE SHADOW CABINET: There are new bad guys in old London Town -- occult ones with undead ambitions and a sadistic streak. Deliciously creepy stuff. And Rory, quirky bayou narrator extraordinaire, keeps the whole thing grounded and funny, as usual. The romance and a few big jaw-dropper surprises also will keep those pages turning in a hurry. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about ghosts, cemeteries, and scary stuff. Do you like reading about such things? Who in the family is easily scared? Who isn't? Would you like Rory's gift?

  • Grab a map of London and see if you can follow Rory, Jerome, and friends around in the book (until you hit the sewers, of course). Do you think you'd ever be able to take a test the way London cab drivers do (called the Knowledge) and know where everything is in London -- or even your own city?

  • Will you keep reading this series? What do you think will happen to Rory and friends and their new occult enemies?

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