Book Three of the Kiki Strike series
By Kirsten Miller
Available now from Bloomsbury
I absolutely adore the Kiki Strike series. They're complex, intelligent stories featuring a cast of talented and ambitious young women. The books are framed as Ananka Fishbein's records of her adventures with Kiki Strike and the other Irregulars. Ananka has come a long way from the first book, but she's put in charge for the first time when Kiki goes to Paris alone. She struggles to maintain control of the Irregulars in addition to preventing her classmates from becoming etiquette zombies and her friend Oona's reputation from being smeared by her long lost evil twin.
Kirsten Miller keeps control of multiple plotlines spread across two countries that end up intersecting in quite unexpected ways. THE DARKNESS DWELLERS is a marvel of tight plotting and careful pacing. There's hardly a lull as she switches between storylines, yet it's surprisingly easy to keep track of what's going on. I do not, however, recommend THE DARKNESS DWELLERS to readers who haven't read the first two Kiki Strike books. There's a quick explanation of who everyone is and what they do, but you might not care as much about each girl's story if you aren't already invested in the character. There's too much plot here to waste too many pages on introductions.
I must also commend Miller for how she concludes Kiki's struggle to prove her aunt murdered her parents and that she is the rightful princess of Pokrovia. It's been the overarching plot of the series and it isn't given short shrift in THE DARKNESS DWELLERS despite everything else going on. And every time I thought Ananka was given the B story despite being the narrator, she'd do something rather important.
I also love that the Irregulars are all flawed despite their great talents. Ananka can be petty. Kiki isn't the most compassionate. Oona has a temper. But they find ways to overcome and get the job done. Betty even proves that what everyone assumes is her weakness can be a strength. (And let me tell you Betty fans, she has a great storyline in THE DARKNESS DWELLERS.)
Readers looking for books with action, puzzles, espionage, and teenage masterminds would do well giving Kiki Strike a try. All three books are just plain fun.