by Thomas Taylor;
An Adventure Book Review by Erin the Cat Princess©
Hello, and welcome to my Saturday Book Review featuring Adventures in Middle-Grade Fiction!
This week we feel happier than a seagull who has found a freshly cooked and unattended bag of chips on the promenade!
Yes, this week, we have the great pleasure to review the spectacular second book set in Eerie on Sea, starring Herbert Lemon, Violet Parma, and Erwin, the cat.
But first, a little Chrismas sketch……
Erin was sat in her special cushioned chair beside the kitchen table. Clearing her throat, she looked around in front of her at an audience that had yet to appear, nodded, and then began.
“Ahem. But first, just in case HRH has had one too many sherries and tripped over the butler and corgi, I give my own Royal Speech.
Greetings, Your Majesty, First Lady (and the team of undercover secret agents in Room 101b of the Pentagon International Satelite Surveillance Team) and fellow citizens of UMM. Today is my birthday. . . . and Christmas Day.
We know it’s been a funny old year, but now is the time to put aside the differences of the months passed. Gone should be the bickering over who gets the TV remote or who gets to lick the tasty gravy off the plates and the last of the succulent chicken. Gone should be the jealousies of whose begonias should have won the Summer Flower Show but strangely got a sudden bad case of wilt. Forget that it was your neighbour who forgot to turn off the garden sprinkler overnight and flooded your car whose window was left open.
These things and more should be but dust in the wind. They are but minor gripes. Trivial pursuits in the grand —”
“I think you’ll find that it’s trivial MATTERS, dear. Trivial Pursuits is a board game.” Mrs H interrupted. Sat at the kitchen table. Her spectacles sat low on her nose as she peered at Erin over the top whilst simultaneously filling in the latest crossword in the UMM Parish Gazette.
“I agree,” Erin said, putting down her speech and sighing loudly. “I was totally BORED. There are never any questions about cheese, even though there are lumps of cheese on the board. They could at least have used real cheese. That would have been far more fun. Better still, real mice would have worked.”
“You said that about Mousetrap that I bought last year. You cant expect every board game we play to involve food, moving or otherwise. How about we play Village Monopoly?”
“That’s not half as much fun when you already own half the properties in the village anyway.” Sighing, Erin pawed at the script of her speech and then threw the pen down in dismay. “Do you think I’ll ever get the call to stand in for Her Majesty? I mean, we are nearly related. AND I had an Annual Horrible too, just like she’s had.”
“Annus, dear. The term is Annus Horribilis.” Mrs H smiled. Erin’s grasp of Latin was often confused, and frequently she made up new terms of her own.
“What, did she fall on her bottom too?”
“No. Annus means year. I doubt the Queen has a bottom, well not in public anyway. Besides, she has staff to do that sort of thing for her; slipping over and the like. Unlike me, who slipped over on your latest bumper edition of Mouse Breeder and Catcher, that you had left on the floor.”
“Oh, I wondered what the wailing was but put it down to those unofficial carrol singers trying to exhort money from us again. Really was a cheek them not actually singing, but playing a tape recording.”
“Yes, I’m surprised they thought they could get away with it.” Mrs H shook her head in disgust. “In my day, we dressed the part in robes and held candles. And it didn’t matter if it was snowing or raining. We earned our money. Now, it is purely commercial. One was dressed as Guy Fawkes and tried to get me to give money in advance for next year! At least I thought he was dressed as Guy Fawkes.”
“How DID you get rid of them. When I looked out the window, they were running faster than the regulars at the Pied Sparrow when Happy Hour’s announced!”
“Well, to be fair, it wasn’t me that did that, though I wish I had. It was old Ned, the gardener.”
“I know he smells a bit of manure and musty stuff, but I wouldn’t say Ned was that frightening, OK, maybe a bit?”
“Ah, well, he’d been helping me preparing lunch, using the blender, and he forgot to put the cover on. Covered him in tomato puree. It will take a week to get off the ceiling, maybe a bit longer to get off Ned. When he came to the front door to explain, he still had the chopping knife in his hand. The rest, as they say, is history.”
“Did that really happen?” Erin asked, her mouth wide open as she imagined the zombie-like Ned lurching at the rogue singers.
“Well, let’s just say that if it didn’t, then it should have.” Mrs H smiled, glancing discreetly at the hefty rolling pin that sat beside her. Noticing the time, she switched on the radio. “Time for the Queen’s Speech. And after that, you can read to me your review of the book for this week’s blog…….”
As the radio crackled into life, our two companions leaned in close to each other, lost in the tones of the voice that led the nation. Erin slipped her paw into Mrs H’s hand and squeezed gently.
“Happy Christmas, Mrs H, and thank you for being making sure we are safe and fed and happy.”
‘Merry Christmas to you, also, Erin. Life without a tall story and a few odd characters wouldn’t be half as much fun. But life without you by my side would be intolerable.”
And Happy Christmas to you all, too.
Without further ado, here is what you all came for, this week’s review. It is also the least of the year, and my, we have saved the best to last!
GARGANTIS, by THOMAS TAYLOR
Published by WALKER BOOKS LIMITED.
Cover artwork by GEORGE ERMOS
Interior Illustrations by Thomas Taylor
Trade paperback ISBN: 978 – 1 – 4063 – 8629 -5
Exclusive paperback ISBN: 978 – 1 – 4063 – 9661 – 4
Cover price for Paperback £7.99 (or cheaper)
Age range: 8 and upwards
Any cats? YES, one, called Erwin, and he talks too!
As ever, to review book two in this series, we need to reveal little bits and pieces of the first book. So, please do look away if you wish to keep it a surprise.
You can follow the link below to see my review of the first adventure.
In the middle of one of Eerie-on-Sea’s worst storms, when the waves and winds threaten the very fabric of the seaside town, a strange cloaked and hooded figure books into the Grand Nautilus Hotel. He is carrying a metal-bound wooden box that never leaves his side. He doesn’t lower his hood even to speak to anyone. Tere’s asunder thunder boom, the lights go out and, when they come back on, he has gone! He has however left Herbie Lemon, our hero and the hotels Lost-and-Founder, an object he says he has found. It is a strange shell, covered in curved spikes and unusually heavy for its size with a metallic clink from something inside. Now, if that weren’t warning enough that something was strange, there was a small opening where it could be wound up.
Against his better judgement, Herbie, urged on by Violet Parma and Erwin, who have just arrived in the Lost and Found room, winds up the shell. A strange mechanical crab-like creature comes out and threatens them. Safely secured under a weighed down bucket, our Herbie and Violet head out to the pier for supper. On the way, Herbie sees something very much like a sea serpent, weaving through the storm clouds. Or did he?
On their return, the strange wind-up crab beast has vanished. Not only did it chop its way out of the wooden pail, but it also took some hefty chunks of fur off Erwin! Somewhere in the Lost and Found office, the creature lies lurking….. Not a happy thought, but one put aside when a group of sodden sailors carry a strange object into the hotel lobby, all tied up in one of their nets. This turns out to be none other than Mrs Fossil, the local pro-beachcomber. Not only that, but she holds a strangely shaped bottle in her grasp that she found on the beach that very evening.
When the sailors, Mrs Fossil and even Dr Thalassi lay claim to the bottle, the hotel owner, Lady Kraken, is brought down to adjudicate. She decides that as it is a lost and found item, Herbie should look after it and resolve who rightfully owns it.
At this point, I need to through into the ring one of many old Eerie sayings that will come to haunt and guide this adventure: ‘When Gargantis sleeps, Eerie keeps. When Gargantis wakes, Eerie quakes . . . . and all falls into the sea!’
Will unstoppering the bottle to reveal the contents really put an end to Herbie’s problems? Who is the cloaked figure, and why was he so keen to give Herbie the beastly mechanical shell? What secrets do the ancient runes on the side of the bottle hold?
Who or what will stop at nothing to get what they think is theirs. And, what will happen if they do?
Friends will be found, and lost. Truths discovered and superstition overturned and rebuilt. Who or what really are the monsters?
All this and far, far more is revealed in the rest of the story. But of course, that is for you to discover and me to keep secret. . . . .
So, what did we think?
I suppose it is hard not to use superlatives when we enjoy pretty much every book we read. They each have, as a rule, different styles and energies that drive them along and give appeal. This book is no exception. In fact, dare I say it, it stands above, say, Amari and the NIght Brothers that I reviewed a few weeks ago (See LINK to Review HERE)
We adored this book, as we did the previous one, for its energy, originality and the ease in which we were drawn into the story from the first paragraph. I struggled to put it down when Mrs H insisted I really ought to go to bed and put the lights out.
I’d say everything a good read should have is in here. The first person style is perfect. And like book one, it adds so much to the feel of what is going on. OK, if it didn’t, then there would be something wrong. But we have read books where the first person character lacks the zing. This, well, it hustles along with just the right amount of Herbert Lemons story to give direction and flavour. Not that it needs extra of that, as there is plenty of seaspray and storm-born static to power a flotilla of stories and seaside neon lights. That may just have been a hint as to something that happens in the book. . . or maybe not.
Oh, in case you were wondering, Erwin, the cat, has his part to play in this too.
So . . . .
An absolute must-read after the first adventure. Buy for the kid in your life or in yourself.
There you have it. There is nothing more to add, except that we will be reading and reviewing book three early next year, so there is a lot to look forward to.
Till then, please do come back for more Adventures in Middle-Grade reading.
Want to buy a copy?
To get a gargantuan attack of salty seaside adventure, then head to your local independent bookshop before they get washed away by the tide of online retailing.
If any authors, publishers or agents wish us to review their books, please do get in touch. Details are listed on our book review page.
Till laters, and next year!