Title: Sophie Quire and the Last Storyguard
Author: Jonathan Auxier
Series: Peter Nimble #2
Sophie Quire is a bookmender who loves books above everything else. But when Peter Nimble drops a strange book off in her shop, her life dives into an unexpected adventure. Because this book contains powers Sophie never imagined, and it has mysterious ties to Sophie’s own life . . .
I liked the first book, but this sequel is a stronger story in just about every way. You don’t need to have read the first book, as Peter Nimble and Sir Tode introduce themselves well, and most of the previous book’s story doesn’t impact this one.
I loved the focus on wonder. From the quote at the beginning by Kenneth Grahame to the various twists in the plot (Bustleburgh, for example, is instituting a very strict No Nonsense policy that threatens many of the books Sophie holds dear), the story questions the all-too-common assumption that only focusing on what’s sensible makes sense. It’s a joyful argument for the existence of fantasy—and I was particularly amused when Sophie notes children are perfectly capable of telling the difference between fantasy and reality. (This is a book I badly wish I could have read as a child and quoted at the various people who held some of those same views of fiction.)
Aside from that, though, the plot is very good. Sophie has a lot of knowledge but no practical experience, whereas Peter has had a life full of adventures but, being blind, never read. The two of them irritate each other immensely, but they also complement each other’s weaknesses. I actually think Peter grows more in this book than he did in the first one, where he got most of the spotlight. This time, he’s got to deal with someone who is, in some ways, his peer, and has talents he could never hope to master (just as Sophie utterly fails at fighting or opening locks).
And there are so many great lines. I need to reread this and pull my favorite quotes. “Wanting more out of life isn’t something to apologize for,” Peter tells Sophie—and that’s a subtler idea that remains a tide beneath the story. Or Sir Tode’s apt observation: “What’s the point of living forever if it’s in a world controlled by men like that?” (And I especially like the reaction that one got—NOT what I was expecting.)
All in all, this is a story not afraid to tangle with some weightier things, but it never gets dragged down by them. I rate this book Highly Recommended.