One day, Ananka Fishbein looks out of her book-filled apartment and notices two weird things. One is a strange creature, covered in dirt. The second is a large hole in the ground that appears to contain a room. The creature disappears quickly, but she investigates the hole and discovers a passageway that leads deep underground. Ananka is interrupted by two city workers, and although she gets away, the hole is filled in, and the passage buried. She can’t get her new discovery out of her head, nor can she ignore the tiny, blonde and dangerous Kiki Strike, a girl she’s only just noticed at school. Kiki may have always been there, or may have just arrived. Ananka struggles to understand what’s going on as she is recruited into The Irregulars, a group of former Girl Scouts about to embark on the biggest adventure of their young lives.
Kiki Strike: Inside the Shadow City has a great concept. I first read about it at Leaving Shangri-La, and fell in love immediately with the idea of renegade Girl Scouts exploring an underground city beneath New York. However, I did find it a little slow going for at least the first half of the book. Ananka has to do a lot of waiting, and I longed for it to be pacier. Ultimately, the pay-off is a lot of fun but I feel that I will enjoy future books in this series more, having already gotten through all the build-up.
Ananka, Kiki, DeeDee, Oona, Betty, and Luz, are almost your stock girl-gang stereotypes. There’s a bookish narrator, an enigmatic ringleader and martial artist, a chemist, a forger, a costumier, and an inventor. Still, I loved the dynamics and drama in their friendships. A lot of the tension comes from Kiki’s mysterious nature, which the other girls find both fascinating and aggravating. Oona and Luz are probably the most developed of the other characters, in terms of home life and backstory, and I’m looking forward to seeing more of them and to discovering the details of DeeDee and Betty’s lives.
One of the quirks of this book is that every chapter ends with an unconventionally educational little section about such things as hidden cities, lying and self-defence. I absolutely loved these lists, especially the hidden cities one, and spent hours looking them up on the internet!
The Shadow City itself doesn’t get that much page time in the end, and I was a little sad about that, but the scenes set there were fantastic. I loved all the action, with rats and explosions and maps! The blurb for the second book, Kiki Strike: The Empress’s Tomb, suggests that it will be revisited, so I will have to track down a copy soon!
All in all, I thought that although Kiki Strike: Inside the Shadow City takes a while to get going, it was still an intriguing and enormously fun start to a series, and I will definitely read the second book to see where it goes. I think it would make a great film, though you’d need a pretty big budget for the Shadow City!