Enola’s name, spelled backwards, is “alone.” She has a sneaking suspicion that her mother named her that way on purpose. Her brothers – including the famous Sherlock Holmes – were already grown up when she was born, and they have stayed away from the house ever since. Enola is convinced this is because her birth, coming so long after that of her brothers, was a scandal they want no part of. Enola hasn’t seen them since her father’s funeral when she was four. But that’s okay with Enola, who enjoys the freedom her isolation brings her.
That is until her fourteenth birthday, when her mother, after leaving a pile of birthday presents, disappears completely. When her brothers rush home to investigate, they are shocked to find Enola without a proper governess, and decide that, whether or not her mother is found, Enola will be promptly sent to boarding school. But, armed with hidden codes in her birthday presents, Enola sees more than even her famous brother Sherlock when she examines her mother’s room. She decides to set out for London on her own to look for her mother. On the way, however, she is distracted by a local uproar having to do with a missing boy.
Action and adventure are found in plenty in this first volume of a series. Enola is intelligent and plucky, a very strong female character. While some of the other characters and situations are a little less developed, they are perfectly in keeping with the Victorian atmosphere of the book. Breaking away from children’s literature tradition, Enola’s disguise is not in the form of impersonating a boy. Instead, she uses a much more subtle and effective use of psychology to formulate her various disguises and identities, which is both far more realistic and more fun.
As a warning, the introduction, consisting of only a few pages, is an odd departure from the rest of the book. The voice is different, and the tone is much older. Some of the content and descriptions are far more mature than the rest of the book. I would recommend skipping the introduction – which is totally unnecessary – and just jumping right into the first chapter.