Book Review: The Unseen Guest by Maryrose Wood

The Unseen Guest; Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place by Maryrose Wood is the third book in the Incorrigible Children series for children around eight and older. The charming sketches from Jon Klassen continue in this book, and enhance the story. In this installment the three Incorrigibles, young siblings raised by wolves and taken in by Lord Ashton, and their governess have returned to Ashton Place after an adventure in London. The children have taken to bird watching, and have refrained from any unwanted behavior so far. Their governess, the plucky Penelope Lumley is pondering a series of odd coincidences and secrets that seem to tie her absent family, her school the Swanburne Academy for Poor Bright Females, and the Ashton family but things are only going to get more complicated. Lord Ashton's mother and her suitor come for a visit in order to seek approval for marrying. The suitor, Admiral Faucet, has grand plans for the Ashton fortune, including racing ostriches and the Incorrigibles. An ostrich hunt, a séance, and a small brook bring even more mysteries and questions to Miss Lumley.

The Unseen Guest continues the character development of Miss Lumley, her charges, and those living at Ashton Place. I really like the movement in Miss Lumley's character, she is starting to mature and lose a little of her blind optimism. She is growing up, which is only to be expected as her experiences build up and get stranger. She is starting to get really curious about her parents, the evolving mystery of the children's origins, and the connections that tie all of her acquaintances together. She gets to explore her feelings about Simon (from The Hidden Gallery) who makes a cameo in this book. The mysteries and plots get quite tangled, but in a good way. I am left wondering Judge Quimby's real identity, if there are werewolves on the Ashton family tree, and Miss Lumley's origin.

I love the Incorrigible series, including The Unseen Guest. There is a combination of the standard orphaned governess with unusual charges and an over the top combination of humor and mystery. All the 'lessons' and musings on sayings from Swanburne have a tongue in cheek feel, or perhaps a wink to the reader. I love it, and it is fresh and different. That being said, I liked The Unseen Guest slightly less than the previous two installments. I think that the number of questions and mysteries that need to be solved have begun to outnumber the moments of adventure and excitement. I think the series might have hit the sequel slump that sometimes happens with even the best books, where one book does more to set up the next book than to resolve unanswered questions. I would really like to see some of the questions and connections resolved.

I recommend reading The Unseen Guest to everyone that has read and enjoyed the previous books. If you have not read the first two, then I highly suggest reading The Mysterious Howling and get started. The series is fun and quirky. However, if you get annoyed easily at unanswered questions take note that this series hints at being long, and full of hints and teases. Each book, including The Unseen Guest, has been a fun read, but more questions have been raised than answered thus far.
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