As there are only 6 books I hope this series will not give me as much trouble as the Famous Five did. Saying that, The Secret Series has only 5 and it took me a long time to decide on my favourite!
SECOND FORM BUT FIRST PLACE
I have chosen Second Form at Malory Towers as my favourite. This is one of the ones I didn’t originally have as a child, but I did borrow it from the library more than once.
Second Form has perhaps a more settled feeling than First Term – as our main character has been at the school a while and has developed friendships. There are some new characters though – this is where we meet Belinda Morris (one of my favourite characters) and also Daphne who is the catalyst for the mystery of the thefts around the school.
The best part of the book has to be the dramatic cliff-top rescue involving Mary-Lou and Daphne. I just love it.
FIRST TERM IN SECOND PLACE
Often I have the first book of a series near the top, and so often that’s because that’s where it all starts and when we first meet our new friends, the main characters. Of course that is the case in Malory Towers. We meet Darrell, the heroine, and go with her as she first attends the school and meets all her classmates.
For that reason everything is quite new to us so this one can lack the cosy familiarity of the later books. It does have Darrell at her best/worst as she struggles to control her temper – and I’m sure we are all cheering her on when she slaps Gwendoline. The mystery of Sally is interesting if a little sad as well.
IN THE FIFTH, NO THIRD SIR, THIRD.
In the Fifth was another much-borrowed library book for me – I ended up buying it! I love the whole pantomime story, and the success of Darrell’s script. The Moira and June subplot adds some mystery and darkness, and although Moira is a pain in the behind and often not a nice person we sympathise with her. I know some people also feel sorry for Maureen but I tend to find her boasting and lack of self-awareness annoying enough that she deserves the bit of teasing she got.
(That’s a Monty Python reference in the heading there, in case anyone was puzzled.)
FOURTH PLACE FOR THIRD YEAR
The third year has several interesting stories going on. There’s the new American girl, Zerelda, who is mistaken for a teacher as she is made-up so maturely. Then there’s Bill, always in trouble for thinking of nothing but her horse who ends up ill in the night, and Mavis who sneaks off for a singing competition and ends up in a lot of bother.
I like these stories that look at other girls but they do take us away from Darrell who is a real favourite of mine. The only real Darrell-centric story is how Sally is jealous of Darrell and Alicia’s friendship when she returns from being ill.
UPPER FOURTH, FIFTH PLACE
Upper Fourth has Felicity, Darrell’s younger sister joining the school. This starts a new era if you like, where much of the story-telling is split between the first form and the upper fourth girls. I do like the insights into the lower school – it’s funny how quickly the older girls forget how small they once were themselves – but I can’t stand June and a lot of the lower form stuff features her. On the plus side it means we get to see more tricks again, the upper school being too staid and grown-up to be doing them any more.
Up in the upper fourth, we’ve got new twins – Connie and Ruth who Stef wrote about a while back [link]. They’re an interesting addition as we’ve rarely seen twins at real loggerheads in Blyton’s work before. Also new is Clarissa who gives Gwen a new reason to behave like an absolute idiot.
Poor Darrell has a real set-back here. She had been made head of the upper fourth but she loses this honour after losing her temper with June (the little beast deserved it IMHO!)
LAST PLACE FOR LAST TERM
Darrell’s last term continues the split story-telling of upper and lower school. Amanda and June bring the two threads together but I don’t really like either of these girls! I do enjoy Jo’s story though, her and poor little Deirdre running away together and so on.
And of course this is the last book so it feels very sad at the end when Darrell and Sally have to say good-bye to our beloved Malory Towers and (unless we delve into the continuation books by Pamela Cox) we’ll never be back there again!
So far I have always had the last book of a series in last place – but this time it’s definitely nothing to do with the quality of the writing. This is one of Blyton’s earlier series, and had finished by 1951, so long before her writing declined.
So there we have it, my definitive ranking of the series. What order would you have put them in?