Review: Rebel Fire - Andrew Lane
Rebel Fire by Andrew Lane
Series: Young Sherlock Holmes #2
Genre: YA, historical fiction, mystery, Sherlockian fiction
Published on April 24, 2012
Published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Read From: 4.2.13 - 4.3.13
Fourteen-year-old Sherlock knows that Amyus Crowe, his mysterious American tutor, has some dark secrets. But he didn't expect to find Crowe somehow mixed up in the incredible reappearance of John Wilkes Booth, the notorious American assassin supposedly killed by the U.S. army. How could Booth be alive and well in England? The inquisitive Sherlock wants to find out, but his first investigations result only in a friend being thrown into peril. Now the relentless detective must redouble his efforts, knowing that since nobody will tell him the truth, he must risk all to discover it for himself.
Cover Blurb: Yes or No? Compared to the last cover of Death Cloud, it's a definite yes. Don't really know why the compass is on the front, since there's no compass featured in the story, but oh well.
Characters: Young Sherlock Holmes continues to be nothing like the Sherlock Holmes we all know and love. Young Sherlock is too apologetic, too openly emotional, and always seeking others' approval. There's also nothing uncannily brilliant about him; he's just average, and there's still no sign of his obvious bipolarism. But as with Death Cloud, it's very easy to forget that young Sherlock is supposed to be the Sherlock, which makes the book a bit more enjoyable. My opinion of Amyus Crowe and Matty are all still the same: Crowe is a good character, but I don't like him being a mentor to Sherlock (Sherlock just isn't the type to have a mentor), and Matty is an adorable street urchin. Sherlock and Mycroft's relationship is still way too close and friendly; I just don't imagine that the two brothers got on all that well. I'm sure they respected one another in their own ways, but Mycroft is a pushy older brother, and more brilliant than Sherlock, and I can't imagine that ever flying well with Sherlock. As for Virginia Crowe, I still don't quite know what to think of her. She doesn't have The Attitude, but there's something about her that I just don't quite like. The villain of Rebel Fire - Duke Balthassar - is absolutely ridiculous. As with Death Cloud, the Author relies on visual appearance rather than personality to make his villain memorable, therefore the Author found it necessary to make Duke Balthassar grotesque and unnatural in some way. If one's villain is memorable solely based on outward appearance, then there's nothing to them at all, and they automatically become entirely improbable. The truly frightening villains are the probable ones; the ones that could exist in real life, that you could meet walking down the street. Duke Balthassar wasn't like that. He was just lame, and making him eat leeches didn't do anything to improve his character; that was just nasty.
The Romance: Sherlock apparently has "growing feelings" for Virginia, and while they don't come into play in this book, I dread the day that they do. I just don't accept Sherlock having crushes; I just don't, especially not with Virginia, who just irritates me, for some reason.
Plot: John Wilkes Booth isn't dead; he's hiding out in England, and someone in America wants to use him to stir up trouble in the United States. But what his plan is exactly, Sherlock doesn't know, and it's up to him and Amyus Crowe to travel to America and find out. This series is definitely more plot-driven than character-driven. While I didn't approve of the villain, and the villain's thugs monologue way, way too much (just carry out your threat already!), and there is cliche after cliche, I have to admit that the plot is rather entertaining, even with all of of its predictability. The Reader can guess the general gist behind what the villain is plotting, and the Reader knows what's going to happen to the protagonist next (because every spy novel and adventure novel and mediocre mystery novel has already done it), but the Reader still wants to find out the particulars, so you keep reading. Death Cloud was more interesting than Rebel Fire, if only because one cannot take Sherlock out of Europe; you lose some of that ambiance that is so important to the stories. But Rebel Fire had some interesting, and very cliche, moments.
Believability: I was lazy and didn't pay all that much attention to possible historical inaccuracies when I read this. The one that stood out the most was: I don't think Sherlock could have gotten into the ship's boiler room as easily as he does. As far as other believable content goes, the villain's whole appearance was, naturally, rather far fetched. Leeches help with blood flow, very true, and I have no doubt that there are blood conditions out there like the one the villain has. But . . . covering every inch of himself with leeches 24/7 (and I mean 24/7)? It definitely felt like the Author put that in more for shock factor than any believability. Oh, and what does the Author mean reptiles don't get scared?! Anything can be frightened away, especially snakes and lizards, who are naturally shy.
Writing Style: Nothing impressive. The dialogue is rather modern, the sentences short and choppy. The Author doesn't spend a great deal of time on scenery description, which made me sad, because it made it difficult to visualize the world. Too much scenery description is bad, of course, but too little and it feels like the characters are doing everything in front of a green screen. The action sequences are easy enough to follow, though the fight in the boiler room was extremely difficult for me to picture.
Conclusion: Of course there's a showdown between Sherlock and Duke Balthassar. Conan Doyle did a lot of showdowns in his original stories, but somehow they were never as ridiculous as the one in Rebel Fire. For a showdown, it was pretty short, but I still found it silly. This isn't a very deep-thinking series; it's a good summer reading book, for a day when you want a mystery, but don't want anything complicated. The plot, while cliche and predictable, is kind of entertaining. As a Sherlockian, though, it was painful to read, even if I could forget that young Sherlock was supposed to be the Sherlock.
Recommended Audience: Guy-read, fourteen-and-up, good for fans of Alex Rider and Sherlockians who don't mind inaccuracies.
Others in the Young Sherlock Holmes Series: