If you long for the return of books that are just, at their core, good stories, then look no further than the "Guild Specialists" series: Operation Red Jericho and Operation Typhoon Shore. They're a pair of richly-illustrated and interestingly presented "young adult" novels by Joshua Mowll that are as rewarding for adults as for the target age of middle school/high school.
Jericho introduces us to Becca and Doug MacKenzie, whose parents have mysteriously disappeared somewhere in China, while on a mission for a hidden society with ostensibly high-minded and honorable intentions. They're packed off to live with their uncle on his ship, the Expedient, and stumble into a world of underground groups with their own agendas (yet blessedly not a single Jesuit in sight) and danger galore. We learn about the dangerous element zoridium, and the wicket society with their pet warlord who are bent on using this element to destroy all that is Good and Pure. But are the heroes really free from their own moles and double agents? Who can Doug and Becca trust? Are their parents even alive? Swordfights, bone necklaces, explosions, mysterious devices, and secrets within secrets make this novel into pulp at its literary finest; it will have you breathlessly turning pages for hours it takes you to devour it.
The story of the second book, Operation Typhoon Shore, follows the further adventures of Becca and Doug, who have now found themselves in the middle of a war between secret societies and contingents, hidden lairs, dangerous scientists and their unpredictable discoveries, aviatrixes, tigers, and martial-arts armies bent on protecting or destroying the world. Thereâ€™s even a buried ship and an exploding volcano...what more could you possibly ask for? For a book that takes place almost entirely upon a single ship and a single island, there's a world of adventure, excitement, and character development.
The illustrations, taken from the top-secret files of one of the secret societies and the sketchbooks of hero Doug, include foldout maps, schematics, and other details that enrich the viewing experience. As an oft-overlooked, but extremely important bonus, the format is just plain nice to hold in the hand. The book itself is presented as a kind of moleskin, complete with elastic band, and the whole screams "high production values" at a very reasonable price. Treat yourself to these immediately and let reading be fun again.