Mabel Jones and the Forbidden City (Mabel Jones #2) by Will Mabbitt
Illustrations by Ross Collins
Release Date: February 9th 2016 by Viking Books for Young Readers
Genre: MG Fantasy/Adventure with a girl pirate
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review via a Giveaway hosted at Word Spelunking
"What do you do when you survive a pirate kidnapping, a milk-drinking contest with a giant grizzly bear, and a stint inside the belly of a whale? If you’re Mabel Jones, you do everything you can to avoid another UNLIKELY ADVENTURE! "
Or at least that's what Mabel had hoped at the end of book one, The Unlikely Adventure of Mabel Jones. Mabel is once again home, all safe and sound, wiser and a more seasoned pirate. But, unbeknownst to Mabel, an evil witch/sorceress has been watching and plotting. She even sends her creeping vines to snatch Mabel and carry her off to the Forbidden City. As I said though, Mabel is wiser, and the vines end up snatching Mabel's little sister Maggie instead. Hot on their trail, Mabel hitches a ride with one of the vines and gets pulled into a whole different time filled with talking animals, and where "hoomans" are extinct. Desperate to find her sister, Mabel enlists the help of some fellow adventures who are also on a search for the Forbidden City and they in turn run into her former crew-mates, who just might know how to get them there.
Mabel is just adorable in her pj's and bunny slippers, swinging a cutlass. She never ceases to amuse me. Even the intrusive narrator is quite humorous, perhaps not quite as much as I recall from the first book, yet still keeps things entertaining. Captain Pelf and Jarvis, crew from Mabel's time on the Ferrous Maggot make an appearance, as well as new additions of Professor Carruthers Badger-Badger, PhD and Timothy Speke, an otter who has a remarkable ability for sketching. And man, those illustrations by Ross Collins are gorgeous and wonderfully detailed. There was a nice balance of newer and familiar characters, with Carruthers and Speke adding a nice British sounding flair. One of my favorite characters, Omynus Hussh was also present, but sadly Mabel and his friendship has returned to a hatred with him having ominous plans for our poor Mabel. The other change I noticed is that this book seemed to have darker undertones to it, not to say I didn't enjoy them, which I did, just that it is something to keep in mind. There is a particular scene where Mabel goes underground into a high school filled with the piles of bones of students sitting at their desks looking at a skeletal teacher and we're uncertain what happened to poor Jarvis. There was also a battle with a huge creepy insect called the Scuttling Death, and well the evil sorceress is also a bit unnerving. Myself, I enjoyed the rise in tension and felt nothing was to over the top or scary, with the narrator taking even these moments and making them funny and light or just making changes in the text size, spacing of words, or adding blank pages in between to show Mabel making her way around in the dark. All making for a fun and amusing story.
Far away aboard the Feroshus Maggot is Captain Idryss Ebenezer Split, who while looking through his telescope into the "hooman world," spots Mabel about to perform "THE DEED." Not any only deed. The most horrible, disgusting deed. She is about to pick her nose and ...yep.... eat it. I know gross right? If you perform the deed, you get yourself bound to the Captain. And at this very minute, he is sending his trusty mate, Omynus Hussh, to sneak down and bag himself the snuglet. Mabel tries really hard to be brave after being kidnapped, but this crew is rather "beastly." And, when Captain Split makes the horrible discovery that Omynus bagged himself something so terrible, something for which the word can't be used to describe, the pirates vow to make it walk "the greasy pole of certain death." That is until Mabel reveals that she can do the one thing that they've been searching for, she can read. Mabel is enlisted as an honoree' member of the crew, given a cutlass and a belt, and in exchange for a means to get back home, she will help them find the pieces of a key needed to unlock a treasure.