The Riddle of Epsilon was written by Christine Morton-Shaw. I hadn't heard of her before but apparently she grew up in England and developed a love for old houses and the supernatural. The book is about thirteen-year-old Jess who has just moved to a grand old house on a mysterious island with her photographer father and portrait artist mother. Strange things begin to happen and it is up to Jess to solve the riddles of an ancient code in order to prevent a calamity.
This is a very rich novel with a historical background story interwoven with an ancient myth involving codes, artefacts and magic. These are expertly connected to Jess, her family and the inhabitants of the island and characters and storylines are quite developed without going into too much detail.
The book is full of illustrations of codes, maps and drawings as well as original poems and songs that are integral to the story. As a reader, you feel drawn in and challenged to try solve the puzzles before Jess does and so this is a thoroughly engaging book.
As the book draws to a close, there is breathtaking action and adventure against a backdrop of moody seas, hidden caves and stormy weather. The story races towards the end and I was really happy with how the story finished. So many books disappoint in the end with insipid and watered-down conclusions but I am happy to say this was not one of them! The final chapter features quite a twist and a time conundrum that will tie your brain up in knots trying to solve it.
This is a book aimed at the young adult audience and will interest both boys and girls in their teens. I'm not certain if it would be suitable for pre-teens because there is mention of drug and cigarette use and I don't think the book carries a clear enough anti-drug message for pre-teens to be able to derive the rather subtle message in the book that these things aren't really necessary to have fun and adventure.
Nevertheless, this is a really well-written book that has been carefully researched and I give it four-and-a-half stars out of five. I believe from Wikipedia that many fans of the book were really captivated by the book and are likening it to the Twilightverse books or the Harry Potter franchise but I didn't feel that level of obsession or involvement. Still, this is too good a book to just give it four stars so I'll settle for another half more.