In the sequel to The Blackhope Enigma (2011), a villain abducts Sunni and Blaise to discover the secrets they learned while inside magical artist Fausto Corvo’s painting.
Using an elixir to take them through a trompe l’oeil door, Throgmorton traps them in 1752 London. While the two faced dangers in their first ordeal, the tale was also suffused with whimsy and light. This time, they must cope with a situation much harsher than any they have ever known. To force them to talk, Throgmorton holds them captive in an art academy, producing forgeries. After a fellow apprentice who displeases Throgmorton is sold to anatomists, they quickly stop complaining about the gritty clothes, bad food and dim candlelight, as well as the disruptive habit of first and second sleep—a setting so well-described, readers will feel and breathe it. With the help of two colorful thieves and a set of aristocrats seeking diversion, Sunni and Blaise escape and search for a magician who can help them travel back to the future. Youngsters will easily follow the action, whether or not they read the first book. The characters are richly drawn and the pace brisk, for Sunni and Blaise’s window—or door, in this case—of opportunity is quickly closing.
A gripping continuation. (Fantasy. 9-12)