The vivacious Jacky Faber returns in the tenth tale in L. A. Meyer’s Bloody Jack Adventures, a rip-roaring young-adult series applauded for its alluring combination of adventure, romance, history, and humor.
Once again under the thumb of British Intelligence, Jacky is sent to Spain to spy for the Crown during the early days of the nineteenth-century Peninsular War. She finds herself in the company of guerilla freedom fighters, poses for the famous artist Goya, runs with the bulls, is kidnapped by the Spanish Inquisition, and travels with a caravan of gypsies…all while hoping to one day reunite with her beloved Jaimy Fletcher.
The irrepressible Jacky Faber is back, and once again up to her usual tricks - and while this story falls prey to some of the same foibles that have been cropping up more frequently in this series of late, it still makes for a merry adventure tale.
Making it to volume ten – while all the while keeping me looking forward to the next book – is certainly no small achievement, and Meyer once again does what he does best, taking Jacky on a merry traipse through history, as she does what she does best: cause trouble, steal hearts, and long for a reunion with her Jaimy.
Now when this story first started out, I’ll admit I was a bit worried by how familiar it all seemed – a problem that has been cropping up more frequently in this series of late (yes, Lorelei Lee is still a sore point) – as Jacky is once again forced by British intelligence to brave a battlefield, and once again finds herself in the company of Lord Richard. Sigh. I admit it, I am heartily sick of Richard, both the man himself and the way he always seems to bring out the worst of Jacky (every time she gets weepy over him I want to scratch my eyes out), but Meyer does seem determined to keep him around as a rival for Jacky’s affections, so it seems we’re stuck with him. Happily (for me), Richard doesn’t hang around for the entire book this time, as Meyer rather efficiently packs him off and gets Jacky once again off on her own, at the mercy of the winds of fate.
Now as ever with this series, a certain blind eye does have to be turned towards the utterly ridiculous ease with which Jacky finds herself rubbing shoulders with history’s notables, this time in the form of the famous artist Goya and the King of Spain. The alacrity with which Jacky ends up in Goya’s household will very likely stick in your craw a bit, as it did mine, but it was fun to learn more about the political situation in Spain, and about the life of such an artiste. Add Gypsies, the running of the bulls, and the Spanish Inquisition to the list, and there is certainly more than enough to make this story a fun tourist ride through history – it’s just that once again I found myself wishing it had all hung together a bit more.
To be honest, the plot is just, well, scattered. The events of this book seem a lot like a series of random vignettes; there doesn’t seem to be much of anything tying the whole endeavor together. Now yes, there was always enough going on to keep me entertained, but in the end I was left feeling unsatisfied – the wheels were certainly spinning, but no new territory was covered, no new ground broken, and frankly I think it’s more than high time we saw some new developments in terms of the larger picture of this series.
What did pleasantly surprise me about this book, however, was how much I enjoyed Jaimy’s side of the story. The boy is finally given a chance to grow up, and instead of being his usual hotheaded idiot self, he actually improves himself a bit in a rather interesting way in this story. I really enjoy how more and more Jaimy is becoming a worthy equal to Jacky’s rambunctious self, in every respect, and I am definitely rooting for this erstwhile couple more than ever – again, no small feat after ten books of ridiculous plot contrivances to keep them apart.
So in the end, while there is plenty to entertain amongst these pages, I do wish there had been a bit more to it all. Going forward, I have three wishes for this series – first off, that it lays off the historical notables for a few books, as it’s getting downright egregious (and frankly some of my favorite installments in this series have involved no big historic names whatsoever); second, that Jacky and Jaimy finally get some page-time together to figure out if their puppy love is going to survive into adulthood, and third and lastly that we finally start drawing towards a rousing, worthy finale for this merry series. I do still enjoy Bloody Jack, and I’ll happily be back for the next book, but if the scattered nature of these last few books proves nothing else, it proves that this series can’t go on forever. It’s high time, I think, to start setting the stage for Jacky to sail off into her happily-ever-after.
But as ever Jacky Faber remains, without a doubt, quite a character.
Byrt Grade: B+
As Levar Burton used to say – you don’t have to take my word for it…
Meyer makes many references to previous books and seems to be biding time until the next novel; this installment is entertaining but not exceptional.