Jonathan Starling's father is back in the asylum. While fourteen-your-old Jonathan is used to being on his own (even when his father is at home he's distant at best, and Jonathan never knew his mother), this time, things are different. He's being followed by some very strange characters, and he has no idea why -- until he stumbles into Darkside, a secret part of London that is populated by villains, thieves, vampires and werewolves and is ruled by the descendants of Jack the Ripper. In Darkside, he starts to put the pieces of the puzzle together: not just in regards to his pursuers, but in regards to his family.
"They came for me in the library! There was this strange woman called Marianne, and she had this perfume that made me feel drowsy, and I was walking out with her until I managed to get away and I had to get thrown out to escape them."
There was a shocked pause.
"You were thrown out of the British Library?"
While there were occasional gems like that, the book's strengths are mainly in the action and in the set-up of the world -- it sometimes suffers a bit from not allowing the reader to make any leaps in logic:
Jonathan couldn't have looked away if he tried. He was transfixed. The giant knocked on the window with surprising gentleness. It was all Jonathan could do to shake his head. The giant shrugged, and wrapped his huge fingers around the door handle.
"What is he doing?" Mrs. Elwood gasped.
Humble braced himself and began to pull. Unbelievably, the metal door began to creak and buckle.
"Oh my God!" Mrs. Elwood screamed. "He's ripping the door off!"
Granted, if someone was ripping the door off of my car, I probably wouldn't be able to string two words together, so I guess I've got to give Mrs. Elwood points for that, even if a play-by-play seemed a little excessive.
Darkside starts off with a kidnapping, then continues on with lots of action, adventure and mystery all set in a fantastic new world. It's a super-fun beginning to a new series -- while it occasionally suffered from First Episode Syndrome (in which all of the set-up -- introductions of all of the characters, the situations, and the world -- sometimes overshadows the story itself), I find myself looking forward to the next book. Definitely give this one to Cirque du Freak fans.