THE SECRET OF WHITE STONE GATE, Book 2 of 2: Black Hollow Lane, by Julia Nobel, Sourcebooks Young Readers, March 3, 2020, Hardcover, $16.99 (ages 8-12)
I have not read the first book in Julia Nobel’s Black Hollow Lane series, The Mystery of Black Hollow Lane. But when I heard more about it, I didn’t hesitate to give the second book, The Secret of White Stone Gate, a try.
Here’s the background on The Mystery of Black Hollow Lane:
With a dad who disappeared years ago and a mother who’s a bit too busy to parent, Emmy is shipped off to Wellsworth, a prestigious boarding school in England. Before she leaves, Emmy finds a box of mysterious medallions that belonged to her father. Her father who may have gone to Wellsworth.
When she arrives at school, she finds the strange symbols from the medallions etched into walls and books, which leads Emmy and her new friends, Jack and Lola, to Wellsworth’s secret society: The Order of Black Hollow Lane. Emmy can’t help but think that the society had something to do with her dad’s disappearance, and that there may be more than just dark secrets in the halls of Wellsworth… —Synopsis provided by Sourcebooks
The Secret of White Stone Gate picks up at the beginning of a new school year. After spending the summer at home, Emmy is eager to return to Wellsworth. But before she even gets there, Emmy receives a note from her father telling her to hide the medallions and to trust no one.
Emmy was hoping she was done with the Order for good, but when Lola is framed for a serious crime, it’s clear the Order isn’t done with Emmy.
Jumping into a series via Book 2 is always a gamble, but it paid off here. The Secret of White Stone Gate is written in such a way that I never felt lost. There was enough contextual writing for me to easily catch on. I know I probably missed some of the nuances, which I’m sure I’ll pick up on when I go back and read Book 1. Because now I have to read The Mystery of Black Hollow Lane. The Secret of White Stone Gate is that good. I want to read more in this world author Julia Nobel has created.
Nobel’s prose is familiar and inviting. Her pacing is direct, and most of her characters stand well on their own. (Emmy’s mom and her mom’s cousin, in particular, do feel a little bit like props, conveniently manipulating key elements while not having much substance on their own.) Emmy, Jack and Lola, however steal the show. Their friendship really carries the book.
The characters, and the story line, aren’t the only thing worth reading this series for. The boarding school setting is fascinating. It’s a well-fleshed-out backdrop that feels authentic and lends itself to the ensuing action.
The Secret of White Stone Gate is a middle-grade sequel that I read in one day. It’s a strong mystery that should appeal to a large cross-section of readers.
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