The Friday Society

304p. Dial. 2013. Tr $17.99. ISBN 978-0-8037-3761-7.
Gr 7–9—Three young women make a pact to step out of their circumscribed lives and use their brains and talents to rescue Edwardian London from possible destruction. Cora, Nellie, and Michiko, working for a well-connected inventor, a famous magician, and an inept samurai fight master, respectively, spend their days doing work that furthers their masters' reputations in exchange for food, clothing, and safe housing (although Michiko must endure her employer's mistreatment). As circumstance would have it, their lives collide-literally, on occasion-and they discover that there is a plot afoot to blow up the city. Taking on their alter egos as Hyde, Lady Sparkle, and Silver Heart, they disguise and arm themselves to foil the insidious plan, only to find that it has been engineered by The Fog, a woman who has been repeatedly denied admission into the all-male Society of Heroes. A battle of wits ensues: the trio succeeds, the wicked are punished/destroyed, and the girls form The Friday Society, pledging to rescue women in distress. Intense and fast paced, the plot incorporates murder, mistaken identities, and misunderstandings of characters' intentions. Fans of superheroes and action films will relate to the fantastic powers, miraculous weapons, and just-in-time moves of this Charlie's Angels-like threesome. However, the characterization is rather flat-in the case of The Fog, almost cartoonish-with generally predictable behavior. Also, despite the Edwardian trappings, some of the language is out of place, using modern expressions such as "Hi," "Damn straight I am," and "If you'd like to glam it up a bit…." More television claptrap than well-developed novel, this trio's adventures don't merit one of the coveted places on library shelves.—Nancy Menaldi-Scanlan, formerly at LaSalle Academy, Providence, RI
In this Edwardian Charlie’s Angels meets Ruby in the Smoke romp, Kress introduces three memorable teen protagonists. Science-minded Cora is the lab tech, social secretary, and all-around gal Friday for Lord White, inventor and peer of the realm. Bubbly blonde Nellie is the lithe and agile (of both mind and body) on-stage assistant to popular magician the Great Raheem. Japanese transplant Michiko, employed by a greedy man named Callum, uses her samurai training to perform combat demos and teach wealthy Londoners how to recreationally wield weapons. The three young ladies first meet after stumbling across the body of a scientist. This kicks off a quest to discover why they keep encountering corpses (one also turns up at Nellie’s place, and another, more tragically, in Cora’s arms). The book’s plot thickens dramatically after someone blows up St. Paul’s Cathedral and threatens to annihilate all of London. Kress does a commendable job of juggling all her plot elements and also in negotiating her story’s tone. There’s some real drama to the book (for example, scenes of the cathedral’s destruction and its aftermath eerily recall 9/11), and the girls’ vigilante-like justice isn’t without consequence. But an overall sense of frothy fun prevails, bolstered by winks at genre convention (much is made of the always-foggy London crime scenes) and by three kick-ass females with complementary strengths and distinctive personalities. A sequel is assured. elissa gershowitz

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