By Thomas Taylor
A book review by Erin the Literary Cat©
Hello, and welcome to my weekend Book Review featuring Adventures in Middle-Grade Fiction!
This week Mrs H and Erin have been contemplating a short holiday. . . .
“Foreign travel is always a good experience; it broadens the young mind.” Mrs H said, gesturing to the picture of the pyramids. “Egypt has so much to offer, lots of history and —”
“And scorching sand which plays havoc on the paws; not forgetting the spitting alpacas!” Erin said with a grimace as she vividly recalled her encounter with an alpaca at the Eastlambtonshire Horticultural Show. It had taken Mrs H two hours, a warm bath and lots of scented soap to remove the phlegm, not to mention the smell from Erin’s fur!
“Camels, dear,” Mrs H rolled her eyes. “Egypt has camels.”
“They have camels AND alpacas! I bet the laundry shops must do a roaring trade!”
“So that will be a no to Egypt then, will it?” Mrs H said with a wry smile as she placed the Egyptian Tours brochure into the recycling bin along with others from countries that Erin had found fault with, on a purely feline basis of them wasting good creamy milk on making far too smelly cheeses.
“Maybe we should just go for an out-of-season break, instead. A trip to the seaside would be fun. And we could have your favourite – Fish N Chips followed by Catnip Candyfloss! Then after a brisk walk along the promenade, we can take in a show at the pier’s ice rink. I see ‘Puss In Boots on Water’ is on this year.”
“Umm, shouldn’t that be ‘Puss In Boots on ICE’, Mrs H?”
“Well, yes, ordinarily. But it says here that due to the heatwave and the ice machine breaking, the ice is a no-go. Shall I book the train tickets for Saturday, then?”
“Oh yes, please! And let’s not forget to take something to read. I seem to recall Thomas Taylor sent us a book he wanted us to review. Fester something?”
“It’s grimm, dear.” Mrs H said, picking up a book from the table.
“Well, that seems a bit judgmental, Mrs H; we’ve not even read it yet!”
“No dear, ‘FESTERGRIMM’ is the title. I’m sure this latest adventure in Eerie-on-Sea will be anything other than grim. In fact, I sneaked a quick read and suffice to say, I do believe this is his best adventure to date!”
The following Saturday, the two could be found on deckchairs on the sundrenched promenade of Cliffhanger-on-Sea, enjoying a good read. However, the seagulls were not enjoying it one bit as Mrs H had brought her recently patented Garlic Gull Replant suncream!
And talking of gulls, let’s get on with this review of FESTERGRIMM, the latest adventure for Herbie Lemon and Violet Parma in what has to be one of the best MG mystery series of its kind . . .
FESTERGRIMM BY THOMAS TAYLOR
Cover art by: George Ermos
Published by: Walker Books
Publication date: 1st September 2022
Paperback ISBN: 978 – 1529502121
Cover price for Paperback: £7.03
Age range: Middle Grade (9-12 AND upwards)
Any dogs or cats? But of course, we have Erwin the talking cat reprising his role.
YES. As we are four books in, some of what follows gives away aspects of the previous book/s. Please read from the first adventure if you don’t wish to know.
Thank you to…
We are exceedingly grateful to Thomas Taylor, Walker Books and NetGalley for the privilege of getting to Read & Review this spookily fantastic book before publication.
As ever, our views are our own, and we only share reviews of books we like and feel our readers deserve to know about and that we hope they will enjoy.
Reviews of Books 1 to 3 can be found using the links below.
It is the back end of November, and Herbie, the Lost-and-Founder of the Grand Nautilus Hotel, has a queasy feeling in his stomach. This is definitely foreboding. Having been forced to carry the bags of an unknown VIP, he finds himself on the platform of Cheerie-on-Sea’s train station. The spooky feeling gets worse when he, Mr Mollusc (the hotel’s irksome manager) and Violet Parma (Herbie’s best pal) hear sudden thudding footsteps and an awful shuffling on the platform’s canopy! Is it a zombie? Could it be a …… Well, you’ll have to read that to find out. But let me say, what transpires is enough to cause Herbie and Violet much upset and Mr Mollusc much sadistic mirth. But more of that new character later!
When the immense bulk of Bethuselah – an old train and not a visitor – arrives at the platform in a vast cloud of steam and then leaves again without disgorging a passenger, it seems the mysterious VIP hasn’t turned up. But then, like the worst possible of nightmares, Sebastian Eels appears like a ghost out of the vapour. And deceased is what Herbie and Violet thought he was after the previous adventure! Their arch-enemy, who knows more about Herbie’s past than he tells and is responsible for the death of Violet’s parents, is once more back in Eerie-on-Sea. Herbie and Violet know he is up to no good, but what he has planned, they do not know.
Later, when Dr Thalassi, Wendy Fossil (the resident beachcomber and proprietor of the Flotsamporium) and Jenny Hanniver (owner of Eerie Book Dispensary), all friends of Herbie and Violet, hear of the news, they suggest caution. If Eels is to be sorted out and warned off, the adults will do it. Herbie and Violet are to steer clear. They can’t actually do anything as Eels’ arrival is open, and his plans are unknown.
After some investigation, it transpires that Eels has persuaded Lady Kraken to allow him to open a long-closed and forgotten tourist attraction, FESTERGRIMM. It is Eerie-on-Sea’s own spine-chilling version of Madam Tussaud’s waxworks. Someone was even found dead of fright, having spent the night in its dark and decidedly weird passages lined with uncanny clockwork likenesses of infamous people from Eerie’s past.
Needless to say, there is more to Festergrimm than just waxworks. The name hales from a far darker past. Herbie and Violet learn of a maker of clockwork toys so exquisite and advanced they were beyond compare and sought-after gifts when Ludovic Festergrimm came for the annual fair in centuries past. But, on losing his only child in uncharted tunnels under the seaside town, he was driven to despair and, some say, a madness that consumed him and drove him to build a clockwork monster to find his long-lost daughter.
What that monster did is a matter of record, but one the townsfolk have forgotten. It certainly isn’t something that Mrs Fossil wants dragging up.
So, with Eels offering the town a moneymaking attraction and having wangled the support of the townsfolk and Lady Kraken, there seems little to stop Eels from his dastardly plan. Oh yes, there is one, alright, and it falls on Herbie, dragged along by Violet, to not only discover what it is but put an end to the ever-so-slippery Eels.
Destruction, chaos, lies, monsters, long buried treasures and secrets not meant to be exposed lurk deep within the pages of Eerie’s history. There is tragedy, too, vital and misunderstood. The only thing that stands between the past from revisiting the present is Herbie, Violet and Erwin the cat. Together, willingly or not, they enter into a rollercoaster of an adventure far more scary and dangerous than anything they have done before and certainly do not wish to do again . . . at least not without a cup of strong tea and some dunkable biscuits and cake!
Oh, as to the monster at the train station, well, I’ll let you discover it for yourself! But where he goes, a host of trouble follows.
So, what did we think?
Ok, so I cannot give too much away here, but Thomas Taylor confirmed to us that this is the penultimate book in the series. But we are assured that the final instalment, Mermedusa, will be brilliant and “Lots will be revealed”.
That said, Mr Taylor hasn’t held back on this book; instead, he has outdone himself. This is an adventure with all the toppings. Think of the best fish and chip supper with just the right amount of your fav condiments.
This is one series, like the best, that we as readers will never be weary of. The regular characters all appear, but they never feel old or tired. Nicely where they need to be and bringing the foil to our two main protagonists, arguably three, as Erwin the talking cat helps save the day in his own inimitable feline way. A villain we love to hate is a must, and Sebastian Eels is just that. Herbie sums him up very well when he thinks of him in the VIP room at the hotel as “…pulling the wings off fairies or eating puppies with cake forks…” Conivingly devious and utterly untrustworthy, yet, for some of the adult characters, he is worthy of a second chance!
Of course, all that isn’t enough, and the sheer fluidity of the plot, its twists and turns, some literal, and the first person narrative by Herbie Lemon, are a treat. As I read the book, it seems that Thomas has defined everything that my mind’s eye wants and needs to see in the story, the things I recognise from a seaside town visit and the things one might fear lurking in dark alleyways once the holiday season ends. To borrow a phrase from me recently, you can smell the adventure, salt and vinegar in the pages.
Roll all these attributes together, and we have an adventure that would not be out of place on the big screen or as a Television series. Sadly the proposed movie of Malamander, by a Sony Pictures, never came about. Hopefully, now they will think again!
So . . . .
The series thus far has been an absolute must for readers across the world. But don’t take my word for it, try it for yourself. And yes, whilst this is book four, you can read it as a standalone. But it is far better to take it from the start.
Reviews of Books 1 to 3 can be found using the links below.
Book 1: MALAMANDER. Read the Review HERE. https://erinthecatprincess.wordpress.com/2021/12/18/malamander/
Book 2: GARGANTIS. Read the Review HERE. https://erinthecatprincess.wordpress.com/2021/12/25/gargantis/
BOOK 3: SHADOWGHAST. Read the Review HERE. https://erinthecatprincess.wordpress.com/2022/01/08/shadowghast/
Want to buy a copy?
To get a copy, unharrased by passing seagulls, irate townsfolk and wayward monsters, please do think of your local independent bookshop. There are plenty out there, and each is just waiting to serve up a treasure of literal magical resource, fun and adventure with a personal touch.
If any publishers wish us to review their books, please do get in touch. Details are listed on our book review page.
I shall leave you with a picture of me looking studiously at you!
ALL content on this page/site is copyright, either to the authors, artists, publishers or to Erin the cat Princess© Reproduction in whole or any part without the express permission of the releveant copyright parties is expressly forbidden.