Marcus Sedgwick follows up his chilling "Book of Dead Days" with a less chilling, but far more compelling sequel, "Dark Flight Down." He left a lot of plot threads untouched at the end of the first book -- especially Boy's past -- but wraps them up as he tells a compelling, sometimes chilling story.
Boy now works for the scientist Kepler, but while running an errand to the Yellow House, he's captured by Imperial soldiers and taken to the palace, where the decaying, mad emperor is waited on by power-hungry courtiers. The emperor wants to be immortal, and his right hand Maxim hopes to use Boy to somehow find the Book of Dead Days.
To make things worse, the bloodthirsty Phantom is still at large -- and Boy soon realizes that it dwells in the palace. Surrounded by treachery and Machievellian lies, Boy's only hope is that his friend Willow will rescue him. But then he learns the horrific truth behind the Phantom and the emperor -- and the connection they have to his past.
There's less magic and more mystery in "Dark Flight Down," compared to its predecessor. The Book of Dead Days only shows up occasionally, and the focus is mostly on Boy's struggles to escape Maxim, and find out his identity. And since the horror is all human, it's even more frightening than demons.
With his sparse prose and icy descriptions, Sedgwick does a remarkable job of wrapping up the story, revealing Boy's mysterious past and the identity of his family. The Phantom's identity is a complete shock, and one that is really horrific. Although Sedgwick does fumble a bit with Bedrich the amnesiac, and Kepler's plotting; these things should have been fleshed out.
Boy himself grows by leaps and bounds here, as he realizes that it's who you are, not your true name or parentage, that defines you. Willow is still like a refugee Lloyd Alexander heroine, although she appears somewhat less here. And romantics will be pleased by the dark, if pleasing end for this novel -- the bleakness that has gone before it sort of fades out.
Wrapping up the story he started in "Book of Dead Days," Marcus Sedgwick crafts a chillingly beautiful, intricate little story, about the boy named Boy. A fitting end for the Boy's story