Blog tours are a rarity here at Bookshelves of Doom, so on the very few occasion that one swings through, you can be confident in assuming that I feel very strongly indeed about the book in question.
It's been six years since the last Kiki Strike book, and even the most devoted fans of Ananka Fishbein and the Irregulars had given up hope of a third installment. So when The Darkness Dwellers was announced, there was much rejoicing in the kidlitosphere. And not classy, tempered, polite rejoicing, but RAUCOUS, DELIGHTED SQUEEING.
I was working when I found out, and it's possible that I whooped so long and so loudly that some of my patrons shushed me... but I'm not admitting to anything.
If you haven't read the first two books, you're missed out on huge fun: Kiki Strike is a tiny, white-haired girl with life-threatening allergies, a penchant for wearing black and using her martial arts prowess on anyone who gets in her way... and is a secret princess to boot; Ananka is our narrator, has a avid interest in all things cryptozoology and conspiracy, who lives in an apartment with a private library so impressive that it would rival most public ones; Betty is a sweet-natured master of disguise; DeeDee is a science genius and explosives expert; Luz is aggressive and crabby, but a whiz with gadgets; Oona is a hacker, lock-picker, and business maven; Iris is a younger-mascot-turned-member. Because they're teenage girls, villains often underestimate them... but like Mary Quinn, Buffy, and any number of kickass heroines, Kiki and the Irregulars always use that to their advantage.
As in the first two books, many of the chapters end with sections of practical advice about how to handle oneself in a number of tight spots. In the previous books, the advice offered up would have been right at home in one of the Worst Case Scenario handbooks... but this time, in a rather brilliant twist, those sections could have come straight from Miss Manners. It's all about being a twenty-first-century lady (or gentleman): there are sections on Tea Parties and Flower Arranging, Delightful Dinners and The Rendezvous. NEVER FEAR, THOUGH, the girls haven't come close to losing their edge, and the advice sections are just as clever and subversive as fans would expect.
So, I went in with high hopes—which is sometimes a dangerous proposition—but I'm happy to report that Kirsten Miller has done it again: like its predecessors, The Darkness Dwellers is chock-full of excitement, mystery, secrets, disguises, stock market shenanigans, and smartypants humor. There are punches thrown and tires slashed; code-breaking and chemistry and cool tidbits of lesser-known history.
And while that'd be plenty to keep anyone entertained, it's ALSO an emotionally engaging story about the importance of loyalty, honor, friendship, and family; about realizing that sometimes you can rely more on the family you choose than the family you're born to, but that you also shouldn't be too quick to give up on people. That there isn't only one way to be strong; that you don't have to appear hard-as-nails to be tough; and that being compassionate, polite, and offering second chances doesn't equate to being weak... as long as you don't throw your pragmatism out the window. (And always keep your right hook in reserve, just in case.)
Kiki and friends, I'm glad you're back, even though I'm well aware that this might be your last outing. If so, I'm comfortable with that—the major plot threads were resolved, after all—but I very much hope that it won't be.
Book source: Review copy via Netgalley.