Title: The Devil’s Paintbox
Author: Robin Jarvis
Series: The Witching Legacy #2
Genre: Children’s/MG Dark Fantasy
Age Range: 11+
Legend of supernatural fantasy Robin Jarvis is back with his spellbinding sequel to The Power of Dark.
Lil and Verne may think they have quelled the Dark forces that tried to destroy Whitby, but they have no idea that the powers they’ve been meddling with are about to turn on them. Despite Lil’s crucial role in saving her home from destruction, she notices that the townsfolk have become wary of her – even fear her. More than ever she needs the support of best friend Verne and the witch Cherry Cerise, but they are preoccupied by their attempts to uncover more secrets of the golden Nimius.
When Lil finds an antique box of watercolour paints she welcomes the diversion, little realising that every time she uses it something nasty escapes. But it is while they are distracted an old enemy finds a path to their door . . .
Source: ARC from Egmont Publishing via NetGalley
Now this was a wild ride. Right from the start, this latest Whitby adventure steps onto its dark and dangerous path and doesn’t step off it until the (rather abrupt) end. I had a few reservations about how things turned out in the last book, but not so this time. This is dark and ghoulish and clever and fantastical, full of action and mystery and foreboding, and I enjoyed every page.
Normally, I’m a character person. I love good characters and will happily follow them through some terrible plots. But this book has a cracking plot that carries me through some less interesting characters. Lil is a little quiet here. I felt like she only had a couple of really good, spirited moments, while most of the book she’s struggling to keep up with events and getting overshadowed by the others. Verne comes out the stronger this time around, but even he isn’t much compared to Cherry.
Cherry Cherise completely stole this book for me – well, her and Jack Potts. I love Cherry and her clever colour magic, but also her feisty spirit and refusal to let anyone walk all over her. She’s so much fun, but she’s also powerful and smart in this book and I loved how she does everything she can to protect the town.
By contrast, Lil was little more than a tool used by the paintbox to bring everything crashing down on top of them. I would have expected her to have been a bit smarter at the start and a bit more spirited through the troubles, but she does have a rather large weight on her shoulders throughout, so I can’t complain too much.
The plot, though, oh my, that plot. So much happens, and although there’s a heavy inevitability about it all, it still has the ability to surprise. Some of the paints were ingenious in their power. I didn’t even try to guess beyond the first one what everything would bring. And although Mister Dark is lurking in the shadows, somehow he feels like an afterthought because nothing he does is nearly so dangerous. He’s still awful and cruel and twisted in ordinary, nasty ways, and he definitely stirs up trouble, but the paints are everything in this book.
So if you’re a fan of dark fantasy, enjoy clever, powerful magic and the kind of curses that leave everyone struggling to find a cure, then you will probably enjoy this. Poor Whitby doesn’t fare well, but there’s magic and spirit and determination on the side of good and people to cheer for amidst the darkness. The only thing I didn’t like was how quick the ending was, leaving me feeling a bit cut off, but everything up to then was a wild, frantic, amazing ride and I cannot wait to see how everything turns out next.
The Devil’s Paintbox is Out Now.
Visit Robin Jarvis for more details.