Hegarty, Shane. Darkmouth: The Legends Begin
April 21st 2015 by HarperCollins
Copy from Young Adult Books Central and reviewed there.
Finn knows that he is going to have to take his father's place fighting the monsters, called Legends, that infect his blighted town of Darkmouth. After all, as his father frequently points out, 42 generations of his ancestors have been keeping the town safe. Darkmouth is the last place with active legends; all of the other towns have managed to closed the portals and are no longer bothered. To make matters worse, Finn is not good at fighting monsters! He trips over his armor, shoots the Desiccator at cars, and generally is unsuccessful in dispatching Legends. When his father is insistent that he be ready in a year so his father can take a place of the board of Legend Hunters and occasionally leave Darkmouth, Finn is not happy. He would rather be a veterinarian. There is some hope when Broonie, a Hogbroon, is sent into the Promised Land with a message for Finn-- in order to defeat the Legends, "the boy must fall". Before Finn can ask what this means, his father desiccates Broonie, which doesn't kill the Legends, but sort of shrink wraps them in suspended animation. Meanwhile, there is intrigue afoot. Trusted auxiliaries become suspect, Finn's father tries to build a suspicious looking device to end the trouble once and for all, and the townspeople are starting to believe that Finn and his father aren't protecting the town-- they are keeping the Legends alive so that they stay employed. When all of these facets converge and the portal opens, Finn's mother and father are sucked through it. Will he be able to find them in time and keep the Legends away from Darkmouth?
Because of his job, and his lack of ability in doing it, Finn has few friends at school. When Emmie moves to town and takes an interest in the Legends, Finn shares a little too much information with her, and discovers that her father is stalking his family! It turns out that he has been sent from the board of Legend Hunters to assess Finn's father, but it is nice to see Finn have someone who can share his interests and help him with his fighting skills. Finn also has some nice interaction with Broonie, and seeing the two of them help each other out even though they are on different sides on the conflict is heartening.
Darkmouth is a quaint, rainy, English village where people don't really want to be, and the descriptions of the town and the people give this book a very brooding atmosphere. There are chapters from A Concise Guide to the Legend Hunter World that give some of the back story without belaboring it.
What makes this a great middle grade fantasy is the description of monsters! A lot of readers are interested in reading about them, but there aren't a lot of books about them other than Lorey's Monster Academy or Gilman's Lovecraft Middle School, or the Scary School or Monsterific Tales series. Those books are a little sillier and for slightly younger readers; Darkmouth is fresh, solidly middle grade and filled with just the right amount of explosions and monster bashing.