Willows for Weeping
There is always a problem being an adult reviewer of a children’s novel; one is pickier than the young readers the novel is written for. As a writer I felt this mediaeval mystery, fourth in the Janna Mysteries, suffered because it was part of a series. The basic storyline for the whole series is simple. Janna’s mother dies, and Janna discovers a letter with information about her father. She sets off to find him and gets involved in a series of mysteries on the way. Each mystery is a separate book. Janna is with a group of pilgrims in this book, gets involved with spies and a murder, but still hasn’t found her father at the end, although she now has a name for him. Frankly the storyline struck me as good for one novel, not a series. We lose sight of Janna and why she wants to see her father in the murder mystery part of the novel, and the novel loses strength because of this. After all, Janna is the main character.
There is much that is good: teens will enjoy the mediaeval details and the political machinations of Empress Matilda and King Stephen, as well as discovering who the murderer is. Sometimes, though, I felt the pace dragged as the story bogged down in unnecessary historical asides. Despite the dull bits, I think teen readers who like history would enjoy the series. Janna is very much a teenager.