The Magic Misfits 2: The Second Story by Neil Patrick Harris

The Blurb On The Back:

Do you believe in magic?

With all six of them crowded into the secret room behind the rear bookcase in Vernon’s Magic Shop, they were practically bumping elbows in the dim light.  None of them minded, though; they were practising what they loved most: magic.

This is Leila, escape artist extraordinaire. She shares all her secrets with her magical best friends, The Magical Misfits.  But she can’t escape the mystery that’s heading her way …

The Review (Cut For Spoilers):

It’s several weeks after THE MAGICAL MISFITS. Carter Locke now lives with Leila and her two fathers (Mr Vernon and the Other Mr Vernon) in their magic shop in the small town of Mineral Wells and they have formed the Magic Misfits Club with their friends Ridley, Theo, Olly and Lizzy where they practice their tricks and skills.

Although the Misfits put B. B. Bosso in jail for his crimes during their last adventure, his frown clowns are still on the run and when Bosso’s monkey breaks into the magic shop, apparently looking for one of Mr Vernon’s books, it’s clear that the gang is planning more bad behaviour.

Meanwhile, the arrival of Sandra Santos – a famous clairvoyant and an old friend of Mr Vernon, who belonged to the Emerald Ring – makes the Misfits think that they can get more information on what Mr Vernon was like and why the Emerald Ring broke up.  But Sandra’s presence in Mineral Wells coincides with mysterious goings on in the abandoned wing of the Grand Oak resort where the Other Mr Vernon works as a chef and also leads to a shocking discovery about Leila’s own past …

The second in Neil Patrick Harris’s MAGIC MISFITS SERIES focuses on Leila with Harris and co-writer Alec Azam doing a better job of integrating the backstory with the main mystery and mingling the genuine magic with the illusions while maintaining a chatty narrative style.  Kids should enjoy the magic trick suggestions and code games and Lissy Marlin and Kyle Hilton’s illustrations have a fun anime quality to them that adds to the story.

I think that Harris and Azam made a good decision in switching the focus of the series from Carter to Leila in this book and although they have given her a bit of an old-fashioned background story (complete with mean bullies picking on her at the orphanage), the way it integrates into the main storyline with Sandra is well handled.  I also enjoyed the way Harris and Azam integrated the back story involving the Emerald Ring and what happened to them, with the possible introduction of a new master villain for the rest of the series.

Harris and Azam give Leila a believable vulnerability, especially her fears about confiding in her friends or her fathers and she reacts in a credible and mature way to a key revelation towards the end of the book.  I liked her closeness with Carter, although I wish there’d been a bit more of the sceptical and scathing Ridley who distrusts Sandra and her psychic abilities.  I also think that Theo was very much a side character in this book and although kids will enjoy the slightly corny comic schtick of Olly and Izzy, I do wonder about what role they actually play in the series apart from the comic relief (which I have to say I’m not sure is needed).

The pacing works well and I do enjoy the chatty narrative style that Harris and Azam have adopted, which I think children will find very engaging.  Also fun are the magic tricks and code breaking games that pepper the text, which means that children will get a lot out of it (and probably some adults too). Kudos should also be given for the diversity on show here and while Ridley does sometimes get defined by her wheelchair, I admire the way Harris and Azam include her in the action so that the wheelchair is a tool for her and her skills.

The final action scene was a little too busy for me and at times I lost track of who was doing what and to who. There is a predictability to the plot (although that’s inevitable) and I suspect that the overarching series arc won’t bring anything new to the genre, but this was an entertaining read and having had my doubts about the first book, I’d be more willing to check out the third.

THE MAGIC MISFITS: THE SECOND STORY was released in the United Kingdom on 4th October 2018.  Thanks to the Amazon Vine Programme for the review copy of this book.

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