After the weekend of depressing reads that I had, it's a pleasure to introduce a fantasy that is not completely grim. How could it be, with that lovely cover? Just pretend you never read Rowling, then you'll like this.
I'm off to the Battle of the Books competition because the coach can't make it. These things happen. I do get to sit down today, which will be a pleasant change! Plus, I have the world's best sub!
Bell, Jennifer. The Crooked Sixpence(The Uncommoners #1)
January 31st 2017 by Crown Books for Young Readers
ARC provided by the publisher
Ivy's grandmother was in an auto accident on Twelfth Night in 1969, which left her with retrograde amnesia. This hasn't affected Ivy and her brother Seb's life much, although they are familiar with the story. There is just one mysterious photograph of grandma Sylvie before the accident. When Sylvie falls and has to go to the hospital, odd things start to happen. Creepy people show up at the hospital, and Ivy and Seb end up getting sucked through a suitcase into an alternate London, Lundinor, where there are markets that sell "uncommon" objects; things that have bits of people's spirits in them. Ivy can tell just by touching an object if it has this quality, and she starts to find out secrets about her grandmother's past. There is a sinister organization called the Dirge, who were looking for the Uncommon Goods. It turns out that Ivy's grandfather was part of it. The immediate threats are contained by the end of the book, Sylvie starts to remember a little about what when on in her previous life, and Ivy and Seb are prepared to find out more and return to Lundinor for more adventures.
Strengths: I hadn't wanted to read this book, but once I started, the exquisite world building sucked me right in. The blurb on the cover says "Part Tim Burton, part J.K.Rowling", and I have to agree. Bell did an excellent job of distilling facets of Harry Potter that were appealing (saving the world, alternate universe, quirky clothes and delicious food) but putting them into the story in a fresh way. Uncommoners are collectors of things, so their outfits are "Hobsmatch", lemon squeezers are lights, and Sylvie's ancestral house can only be located by someone in the family. The threat of the Dirge is serious, but not overly scary. Valian is a good guide, and Ivy and Seb get along. Unlike The Iron Trial series, another attempt at duplicating the intriguing aspects of Harry Potter, this has a fairly pleasant world and had MUCH better food. I feel like I'm not doing justice to this one. It was fantastic.
Weaknesses: The parents were sent off on a trip at the beginning, which I guess was necessary, but I would have liked to see them included in the adventure a little bit.
What I really think: I don't buy every fantasy book out there because there are SOOOOO many, but I will be very happy to purchase this one. Great debut!