I picked up The Eagle of the Ninth because Megan Whalen Turner has mentioned it multiple times as an influence on the Attolia/Queen's Thief series. Marcus's early injury in the story directly inspired Eugenides's story in The Queen of Attolia, and Turner has even said she wrote Thick as Thieves partially as a reversal of Eagle; rather than the soldier, it is the slave who tells the story. The quest feel of the latter half of Eagle also feels very similar to Turner's The Thief.
But enough about influences. Eagle isn't a seat-of-your-pants thriller or even a typical quest narrative. While the seeds for the quest are planted early, the mission to retrieve the lost eagle isn't even introduced until nearly halfway through the book. Instead, we're treated to Marcus's personal journey from centurion to invalid to new man. Sutcliff takes her time, painting the landscape without overwriting, keeping jargon and cultural references as natural as they would have been to the characters without explaining more than is strictly necessary to her readers.
I was expecting more of a traditional adventure tale, and while that expectation was somewhat disappointed I didn't find myself regretting the time spent with Marcus and Esca, the gladiator Marcus purchases and later frees. Their friendship is one of the best things about this book. The mutual respect they have for one another and the lengths to which that respect (and yes, even brotherly love) takes them to make this story refreshing even if it isn't always the most gripping.
Fans of Megan Whalen Turner, historical novels, or tales of friendship will enjoy this book.
In this third installment in the Lockwood and Co. series, Stroud pushes some of his characters to new breaking points. After the startling revelation at the end of The Whispering Skull, Lucy, George, and Lockwood are continuing to do what they do best: stop hauntings and generally ignore their own feelings. Lucy's Talent for Listening is growing stronger, and it's not just the wisecracking skull she can hear speak anymore. But with Lockwood's distrust of her growing empathy for the ghosts they banish and the introduction of a new team member, Holly Munro, the gap between Lucy and Lockwood seems to be growing wider.
To make matters worse, there's a regular epidemic of hauntings springing up almost overnight in Chelsea, and the top officials in the field can't find a way to stop it. With tensions rising and old enemies reappearing, how much more can Lockwood and Co. take?
The Hollow Boy started out feeling slow to me, despite the tantalizing promise of the final scenes of The Whispering Skull. The central mystery doesn't take center stage as early as I expected and the main questions on my mind (What happened to Lockwood's sister? What's at the heart of the Problem? etc.) weren't developed as much as I'd hoped. Add to that Lucy's continued misinterpretation of her own feelings (she seems convinced she misses a professional closeness to Lockwood, but it's pretty clear she is developing romantic feelings for him) and her failure to think clearly, and I found myself being frustrated a lot here.
But then there's the new twists Stroud weaves into the story. Two antagonists from the previous book make appearances (and threats), setting them up for further development in the final two books. There are hints of a larger conspiracy involving the heads of the two main anti-ghost agencies, Rotwell and Fittes. The mysterious Orpheus Society gets a name and a sprinkling of new information. And, perhaps most importantly, Lucy and Lockwood mature. They're not at the ends of their character arcs, but they both emerge from The Hollow Boy as wiser versions of themselves. Throw in a potentially horrible (though not necessarily truthful) prophecy from a ghost and what is absolutely the creepiest haunting in the series so far, and The Hollow Boy comes to a satisfying end. I can't wait to get the last two books and see how Stroud winds things up.
Recommended for fans of horror, haunted houses, mystery, and likable but flawed protagonists.