[Review] The Darkness Dwellers by Kirsten Miller

Summary: First they ventured deep under New York to save the city itself. Then things got personal as the Irregulars ventured into a haunted mansion in Chinatown to uncover an evil twin. Now, in the third installment of bestselling author Kirsten Miller’s Kiki Strike series, this delightful group of delinquent geniuses jump feet first into a fast-paced international pursuit, going underground in Paris to pursue a pair of treacherous royals who have killed Kiki’s parents. With a dash of romance, a fresh take on good manners, and loads of butt-kicking bravery, Kiki, Betty, Ananka and the other Irregulars sharpen their amazing skills in this highly anticipated new adventure.

Genre(s): Middle Grade/YA, Adventure, Urban Fantasy, Mystery
Representation: Asian secondary characters, Latinx secondary character, strong female leads
Content warnings: threatened violence, juvenile delinquency

Series: Kiki Strike #3
Publisher: Bloomsbury U.S.A. Children’s Books
Release date: January 22, 2013 
Book links*: Goodreads | Book Depository | IndieBound

*These include affiliate links, which means that if you click through and buy a book I will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. [Full disclaimers here.]

3.5 stars

I definitely enjoyed reading this, but most of the Irregulars have been relegated to comic background characters (even Oona, the literal face of one of the main subplots) so Ananka and Kiki can continue to take center stage — the exception is Betty, who really comes into her own — and I really missed the group dynamic; it seemed like there were only a handful of scenes where Ananka is actually with the group, and half the time her mind is somewhere else. Leadership is hard, but I don’t think, objectively, she pulled it off quite as well as she implies with all her talk about “earning” respect.

Some of the “Fishbein’s Guide to…” sections are funny and practical as ever, but some are just juvenile. That statement could also be applied to Ananka herself: hypocritically, she never seems to catch on to issues of human decency that she describes, including constantly trying to get her friend’s boyfriend alone with the explicit hope of “stealing” him away, or recognizing that other people have their own issues (except when it inconveniences her with a need to intervene). 

There are only a handful of major plotlines, and yet at times I still felt like there were too many moving parts — but at the same time, the topics it tackles are well-trodden ground: found vs chosen family, lost and ill-fated romance, corporate greed, feminism, etiquette vs common courtesy. Part of the overwhelming feeling might be Ananka’s own emotions coming through, but another part was that it was just messy — jumping around from focus to focus, switching between Ananka’s POV and Kiki’s (as told by Ananka, of course). The resolutions are too neat, as well as pretty abrupt, which was definitely disappointing. I’m tempted to go back and see whether the previous two installments are actually that much better, or just tinted by memory as rosy-pink as the cover of this book.


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